May 082006
 

So, I’ve already linked to a ton of other people’s commentary on the Metaverse Summit, but I haven’t given any of my own thoughts yet. If you’re used to thinking of me as the pie in the sky idealist, prepare for some grounding…!

Annotated versus virtual reality
There was a definite tug of war between two competing versions of what the metaverse means. One of them is the virtual world thing that most readers of this blog will be familiar with. The other is the annotated world augmented reality thing, which is the idea of pulling web data into the real world by overlaying it on our physical existence via heads-up specs and the like. In between is the “mirrorworld” which is a compromise, replicating the real world into virtual space and then annotating it there.

I have little doubt that all of these are dreams that are under development. But they don’t all seem to me to be the same thing at all, and I think they serve different purposes because of their usage patterns. Virtual worlds are primarily, and will continue to be primarily, for leisure time activities. Augmented reality serves a primarily practical purpose, and will continue to be best-suited for that. The killer apps for augmented reality lie in local economy applications: real estate, comparative shopping, navigation, interpersonal interaction annotation (heads-up tickler files over people’s heads, etc). The killer apps for virtual worlds have been, and will remain, chatting, hanging out with friends, and entertainment.

We’re seeing the first steps towards the annotated world stuff right now. World Heritage sites are being ddigitized, and services like Zillow are causing upheaval in their markets. These are all starting with mirrorworld applications, of course, but mirrorworld data will eventually migrate towards the two extremes. A digital Machu Picchu is much more compelling when it’s either serving as tour guide or hosting mutant dinosaurs you can kill; an inert 3d version would be one you visit once, think is cool, and then never visit again, much like most people fall in love with Google Earth (and its predecessor Keyhole) for about a week, then stop using it.

This divide stuck out for me perhaps because I am reading the latest Vernor Vinge book, Rainbows End, which is set here in San Diego, and features lots of augmented reality overlays on top of a landscape I know fairly well. Among the postulates is that kids will choose to run around in parks that are built with VR overlays for gaming — but there’s no mention of more traditional, screen-bound games. Which brings me to my next thought…

The poorly distributed future
One of my recurrent comments to other attendees was that many of the folks there needed to get out of Silicon Valley from time to time and go visit Cleveland, or Iowa, or rural Florida. You know, the real world. Some of the more enthusiastic folks were proposing brainports by 2016, and I felt obliged to stand up and point out that even if a fully functional and debugged brainport were announced by a stealth startup tomorrow, it would not have made it through the FDA by 2016.

Afterwards, chatting with Esther Dyson and Ethan Zuckerman, Ethan and I compared notes on the progress towards the “artificial pancreas” for diabetes management, something for which he has literally been waiting for 21 years despite the fact that “all the pieces are there.” (Minimed has recently deployed the first pre-alpha gen of something like this, and it’s a long way from being a real solution for all diabetes sufferers).

There’s a “last mile” problem in a lot of technologies, and metaverses are no exception. There’s this tendency to assume that just because a new technology comes into play, the old ones are replaced. But they aren’t — they are still in use even in the most trendsetting of communities. At the Summit, there were a lot of folks taking notes on paper right alongside those with laptops, and I think I was the sole tablet user. The only person I saw putting virtual worlds to real use during the summit was Robert Scoble, who seemed unable to pry himself away from Second Life. And lastly and most telling, there was an uncomfortable moment when some of the more pie-in-sky folks rhapsodized about how a virtual Darfur in Second Life could raise consciousness worldwide and Ethan slammed them for it. There’s a level of arrogance inherent in thinking that some geeks in Silicon Valley building a virtual Darfur can even begin to convey what actually happens in the Third World when many of those on the ground cannot grasp it.

Just as the screen-bound games are not going to go away (check out the resurgence in retro games!), Zillow isn’t going to kill off all the real estate agents either. There’s a large and aging population that won’t be gone by 2016 who will stick to the old methods; a large proportion of the younger folks will still prefer the handholding another person can offer; and the affluent will do the math and conclude that the cost of paying an agent may well be a better deal than the lost value of their hourly earnings if they did it themselves. Technologies accrete. Many of the loftier visions of social impact were centered around the incorrect notion that technologies replace, and that’s just not how the world works.

The metaverse is flat
The subtitle of the summit was “Pathways to the 3d web.” Some folks, like Daniel James, spent much time crossing out the word “3d” everywhere they saw it. As Randy Farmer noted in “3d is like blue.” It’s an attribute. What’s more, it’s a fairly useless attribute in many cases.

I have become persuaded that a huge part of why Korea boasts such a burgeoning MMO player population is because they didn’t go 3d as quickly as the West did. Yes, I blame EverQuest. 3d is pretty, significantly more immersive, and it’s more than twice as hard to adopt. The average person does not know how to navigate a virtual 3d space, the control complexity is significantly higher than any 2d environment demands, and most of our applications of virtual spaces haven’t actually needed 3d interaction anyway. The idea embodied in one of the OpenCroquet demos, of playing chess in a 2d window whilst in a 3d space, just underlines how superfluous the 3d space is to that particular application. It’s wonderful that you can collaboratively build 3d objects, but why do you want to?

Technology should follow needs. Some of the best indicators of coming metaverses are Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, mySpace, Amazon, and eBay. That’s where the volume is.

Similarly, there was a curious infatuation with space, closely tied to the love of 3d. Replicating New York down to every single apartment is neat and mostly useless. Space is an obstacle separating locations of interest. Empty space should exist only for the sake of it being filled with things of interest, or for the purpose of keeping locations of interest from overlapping.

We’ve known since the earliest virtual worlds that the topology of virtual spaces has more in common with subway maps than with Cartesian grid maps. Almost every world has involved forms of teleportation, and the “lumpy” distribution of population means that the world is seen from the point of view of major stops, not as a location-equivalent grid. For me, right now in the real world, San Francisco is closer than Big Bear, because I can hop a plane there and skip the boring bits. Skipping the boring bits is one of the big advantages of virtuality.

Ah, cycles
It seems like every ten years there’s a boomlet, and everyone who was doing virtual worlds the “old way” goes down, and a bunch of new mammal companies and organizations come up. Both the design assumptions and the business models tend to change at the same time. The last big boom was ten years ago, and marked by a serious swath of names that all started at just about the same time (though they didn’t all finish together):

  • Lineage

  • The Realm
  • Meridian 59
  • Kingdom of the Winds
  • Ultima Online
  • Everquest
  • Asheron’s Call
  • Dark Sun Online

What these brought to the table was a certain level of production values and a new, flat fee subscription model. They killed off a ten-year-old generation of games that had focused on time-based fees and didn’t have the same budgets. But those, in their turn, killed off an earlier generation, and so on.

Only around 3-4 significant virtual world releases happen in a given year in the whole world. Right now, we’re seeing that generational shift happen, and WoW isn’t the first of the new: it’s among the last of the old. The Summit asked us to forecast ten years out, and I think the safest prediction is that whatever we think is the next big thing will be dying off in ten years as a new disruptive approach is born.

That doesn’t minimize the importance of the disruptive stuff happening right now. The buzzwords that are making money circle the metaverse people once again: open platforms, networking multiple worlds, web integration, social networks, ancillary businesses, free play, microtransactions. A huge portion of this is going to be dotcom hype all over again. But some of it won’t be.

Because of that, as curmudgeony as this post might have seemed, I’m still very much an optimist and idealist about all this. I just think that tempering the dreams a little and focusing on the strengths of virtual worlds is what makes sense.

  149 Responses to “Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit”

  1. Original post:Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit by at Google Blog Search: vs. online player in chess free

  2. Raph’s Website � Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit

  3. del.icio.us croquet bookmarks del.icio.us warning: non-utf8 string! (sorry)

  4. is/are wrong, and less frequently, that their opinion is right. This was the exchange (about a week or two old, now):Me: Granted, it must be nice to know who you’re speaking to and why they’re wrong from the outset. I’ve always envied that. Prokofy

  5. Raph Koster has a very interesting discussion going on about online worlds and the march toward a Metaverse. There is also a related discussion about “exceptionalism” in regards to the Metaverse discussion. I really don’t want to say much about it here, other than to point you to the discussion. This is for a couple of reasons:

  6. this film is extraordinary, not just for it’s use of technology but for it’s fantastic perception looking forward.” Here is the 2014 version. Here is the 2015 version. I can’t decide if this is cool or creepy. To Listen to Session interviews: To Hear Raph Koster’s take on the two competing views of the Metaverse A great CNET article on the summit Keynote Speech from Mike Liebhold (it’s the second to last link) All are definitely worth a look. For those of you who are fascinated by human interactions, technology

  7. [IMG web] (Noticia no disponible en castellano) It seems Slashdot is getting a new design. As we could be no less, Jynus.com is currently doing the same. Hope you like the new style! Problems, suggestions and comments about the new style, here.

  8. [via Kevin Werbach]Raph Koster writes: There was a definite tug of war between two competing versions of what the metaverse means. One of them is the virtual world thing that most readers of this blog will be familiar with. The other is the annotated world augmented reality

  9. fabrication and delivery. All of the technology to do this exists in Second Life today. I think the project also serves as a useful concrete example which sheds some light on some of the ephemeral issues surrounding Web 3.D, the Metaverse Roadmap and Overlay Worlds versus Mirror Worlds versus virtual worlds. First, this project was fundamentally 3D. Although virtual world veterans quite rightly point out that a lot of what we do gains nothing from 3D, there are things that people do, like designing and building kitchens, that really are 3D and would

  10. Raph Koster has a very interesting discussion going on about online worlds and the march toward aMetaverse. There is also a related discussion about “exceptionalism” in regards to the Metaverse discussion. I really don’t want to say much about it here, other than to point you to the discussion. This is for a couple of reasons:

  11. Yeah, GoogleMaps has that new toy quality, but it seems to be progressing into something honestly useful. Just give Google a bit more time to bring it up to par with mapquest for getting directions. I’ve noticed improvement since the launch. Having an overhead image overlayed with your map is actually helpful when navigating, though it does require some good spatial reasoning skills.

  12. [...] Comments [...]

  13. [...] one another, and the probable future direction of metaverses and reality annotation. Worth reading.(Post a new comment) Log in now.(Create account, or useOpenID) [...]

  14. Raph, thanks for the summary. As someone who saw a lot of the metaverse (3D) technology hype 10 years ago first hand, hearing about a Metaverse Roadmap gave me more than a little pause. Are people working on the next steps forward aware of the pervious generation’s successes and (more importantly) mistakes? I’m glad the organizers were willing to bring together a diverse and vocal group.

    I’m disheartened just a little that when these types of discussions crop up, there tends to be a lot of talk about the technology, but not about people. Regardless if it’s a virtual world or an annotated overlay, the purpose is to provide a shared context in which people can interact. This is why I agree with you that MySpace, eBay, Cyworld and such represent steps toward large metaverses – the technology they employ is intended to further a particular set of human interactions. I hope that in addition to the virtual Darfur example, people were being considered during these discussions.

  15. [...] Sounds pretty crazy doesn’t it. Well, there are some problems. And although there’s some really cool stuff being done right now, The Metaverse isn’t going to take over quite yet, if at all. For a few good write-ups about just why not, go ahead and read Raph and M3mnoch’s thoughts. [...]

  16. I think you’ve mostly hit the nail on the head here, Raph.

    The only thing I’d have a slight quibble with is the fact that things will always get disrupted. One of the things were facing this time around is that we have some huge players with a lot of money invested in the old way. Something disruptive might come along, but if all the big players like SOE, NCSoft, et al. decide that “things shall not change!” then change will come much slower. Sure, as you point out each previous disruption pretty much made the old systems go away. But, in each case the newcomers were so much bigger and more dominant, or external conditions changed. M59 was the stepping stone to the current era of gaming, but UO and EQ simply had so many more players than the games on the old online systems that they made the previous games seem irrelevant. It also didn’t help that the flat-rate pricing model came along to AOL and disrupted how the old games made money, either.

    All that said, I think it is very likely that we will see a major upheaval soon. The disruption in business model is coming. The big question for me is: Will something come along that will dwarf WoW in terms of players and profits? I’m sure one of the reasons why people are seeing WoW as a big transition is because its size has dwarfed previous games, just like the current era of games were big enough to make the old AOL, etc, games look tiny and insignificant. But, that’s only part of the equation.

    The bigger issue here is how the business side of things will work. I think we’re going to have too many people trying to compete over the same space, and it will segment the market too much. I also fear that some developers and investors are going to want to cash in too quickly, and this will hurt some of the adoption of a new business model. The uproar over the Oblivion mods shows a bit of this, and people are distrustful because of it. The “free to play, pay with microtransactions” system takes a while to get into gear if you don’t already have a willing audience. Neopets took years to build their site up to the point it is now, and investors aren’t always keen on the “Yeah, we should be turning a profit in 5 years, hopefully” type of business plan. Unless you’re right that…

    A huge portion of this is going to be dotcom hype all over again.

    At least this time I have the skill set, the experience, and the contacts to exploit it properly. Maybe I can get myself a really expensive chair on someone else’s dime! ;)

  17. It’s interesting seeing that list of games as the first line-up of MMOs. Out of them all, Lineage and EverQuest remain in the vernacular, while all the others have marginalized to one degree or another. UO is about as obscure as M59. Lineage is strong because of its huge playerbase…but EverQuest is available to anyone playing any other Station game. All the rest just have themselves. There is no “UO2″ to inform newcomers of “UO.”

  18. (Ralf is so right it takes no further comments) Brian, that the nature of disruptive technology: it does not make older stuff look “worse” by virtue of being “better”. It makes old stuff look completely irrelevant. So SOE, NCSoft, et al saying “thing shall not change” will have same effect as buggy whip producers marching around Henry T. Ford factory. Or recent “rich client will not die!” stand by certain old software company next to whole Google/Yahoo web 2.0 thing.

    The big question for me is: Will something come along that will dwarf WoW in terms of players and profits?

    question is 2 years late. Answer is out there in plain view for loooong time. Neopets.com was 25M members at time of acquisition. HabboHotel in 10s of millions. Everybody knows MySpace numbers – which is fundamentally async online world.

    If you recall our chat last year about WoW / cannibalization? Let’s count the chickens. After 10y of various semi-lame attempts to build various “beat rats with the club” 3D worlds, the ultimately super-high quality jewel of this genre was created, stolen everybody users, and jury has reached the verdict: 5M. That’s it, end of story, done! 5M demographics for these 3D “rats” worlds. Ok let say 10M including various not-yet fully wow-erized survivors. Fine, that’s SOE/NC sandbox, have fun guys.

    Real question today is: what “online” “world” 1B of web 2.0 users going to “play”? everything is in quotes since even definitions are fuzzy at the moment. After all MySpace+Pets+Habo+etc is still less then 10% of this market.

  19. Heya, Max. Unfortunately, my last attempt at a comment crashed and I need to sleep before the drive to E3, so here’s a slightly shorter version:

    The difference between buggy whip makers and Sony/NCSoft is marketing dollars. The poor, abused-in-analogy whip makers didn’t have millions upon millions to spend in defense of their system. Consider how much money Sony spent on marketing for consoles. I think it’s silly to think these companies will become obsolete without a fight. For all the abuse they take, these companies still have highly profitable businesses and interests to protect.

    I think you’re falling prey to one of the things Raph points out: techno-optimism. You think that change has to happen, but it doesn’t. To go back to the tired car vs. buggy whip maker debate, it was entirely possible for people to reject cars and continue using horse-drawn carriages. It didn’t work out that way, but we can’t assume it absolutely had to work out the way it did without external influences.

    Also, notice I said “players and profits“. Having lots of users is nice, but if you aren’t making lots of money from them then it’s pointless in a business case. What’s MySpace’s business model, besides taking investment money? How are they making money off of 65 million (or whatever number this week) people? (And, we shouldn’t assume all of those are people.) Likewise, are NeoPets and HabboHotel (to name the two examples you gave) making more money than WoW is? How long did the first two sites have to stay online before making money? What was the initial investment? Can the successes be duplicated? Will the success last as long or longer?

    Lots of questions, with answers required before we can even make educated guesses about what the future will hold. I still say there’s no guarantees here. It could be that MySpace.com is the future, or it could be a passing fad that crushes itself under its own weight. Time will tell if our guesses are correct.

    I will say that I’m betting along the same lines of the future we’re discussing in some of my current work, but I have taken a long, hard look at the situation and the risks and know nothing is set in stone where the future is concerned. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst as they say.

    My further thoughts,

  20. Raph, great to see you again this weekend. More later, but on 2D vs. 3D:

    Totally randomly my girlfriend bought me Microserfs by Douglas Coupland right before I left for the summit. Besides just getting to the part where one of the characters starts to build 3D “Lego” software that sounds a lot like a Second Life, which is funny enough, the same character earlier went on a 2D diet after locking himself in his office and only eating food that could be slid under the door. I think this passage nails the 2D vs. 3D thing we’re talking about here. A Web with common 3D interfaces and environments doesn’t banish 2D from the Web, but the ability to do 3D is the superset of 2D and the superset always wins (so how? how soon? driven by what forces? to what limit?).

    From page 31 of Microserfs:

    “I told [Bill Gates] about my Flatlander flat-foods-only concept, and we then got into a discussion of beverages, which, as you know, tend to be consumed with a straw in a linear, one-dimensional (and hence not two-dimensional) mode. Beverages are a real problem to my new Flatlander dining lifestyle…let me tell you.

    “But then Bill…pointed out that one-dimensionality is perfectly allowable within a two-dimensional universe. So obvious, yet I hadn’t seen it! Good thing he’s in charge.”

    Funny, but very true here too :). Wanted to be sure to add that in this discussion: it’s not 2D vs. 3D, 2D fits inside 3D. It’s too easy to see “3D Web” and say “meh, no way will it all be 3D” and walk away. That only takes away from the discussion of how the 3D gamespace stuff will get here and how. Needless to say the gamut of views will be repped in the Roadmap doc and extras.

    Anyone interested in updates on the project and ways to get involved please drop a line to roadmap@accelerating.org . This is a different kind of foresight project and we want to hear from **everybody**.

  21. The Metaversal Echo Chamber

    A pair of conferences exploring virtual worlds have come and gone. I was able to attend several SDForum panels in avatar form, thanks to a streaming video window made available in Second Life by The Electric Sheep Company. But I missed out on the elite…

  22. [...] Related Stories Offsite: Raph Koster’s Roadmap Roundup Offsite: Raph Koster’s Thoughts On The Metaverse Summit Mapping a Path For the 3D Web | Log in/Create an Account | Top | Search Discussion Display Options Threshold: -1: 0 comments 0: 0 comments 1: 0 comments 2: 0 comments 3: 0 comments 4: 0 comments 5: 0 comments Flat Nested No Comments Threaded Oldest First Newest First Highest Scores First Oldest First (Ignore Threads) Newest First (Ignore Threads) [...]

  23. Jerry, the issue is that jumping straight to 3d limits the adoption path. I agree that it has to happen eventually, but systems like Second Life and to a lesser degree OpenCroquet limit who can use them by being 3d, and thus make difficult a lot of the more obvious possible metaversal applications.

  24. Dear Raph, I read on Clickable Culture that you said people weren’t critical enough at this conference. I think that’s because the Metaverse (or as I like to call it, SecondVerseSameastheFirst) is in a really narrow groove of Panelverse types who just migrate from one panel to another on somebody *else’s* dime. You need to get both more RL people who don’t do this panel stuff for a living AND you need to bring in people who actually do business exclusively inside these worlds (like Anshe Chung), not those both in and around them and sponsoring all the conferences(like ESC).

    On the uses of VWs, I’m just not getting your segregation of these different metaversal strands. Seems to me that if you want 3-D thingies to go shopping for RL clothes and real estate, you’d like to do that while chatting with friends and family, and maybe prototype some of that out in 3-D virtual worlds and sample the versimilitude of the Google Earthed thing in SL. If they could get easier to use, people will use them. But they peak fast. Already my 11-year-old daughter explains with a world-weary sigh to me that ‘MySpace is a Parody’ and my 13-year-old son has committed SLuicide because returning mall prims just got too wearisome — they’re bored with WoW, too, and are actually lying around now *reading books* (!).

    I agree that most people don’t really want to collaborate on 3-D building. This is a geeky myth. Yes, a few do, but the tools in SL are buggy and flawed for this (they’re revising this). I get the impressions most geeks talk a good game about 3-D build collaboration, but secretly, they’d actually rather build the stuff in their basement, and then upload it to the world to chat about with peers or sell OR have the entire thing in their basement on their own server. A “Worlds for Windows” sort of future application that can enable people to make little 3-d buildings and av bling and stuff and exchange it with their friends on Yahoo Messenger could be neat. At the end of the day, you still gotta eat tho – who’s going to pay for all this stuff?

  25. [Crossposted from Habitat Chronicles]

    Jerry,

    The difference is emphasis and framing.

    No one holding conferences and making 10-year plans for the All Audio Web, or the All-encompasing Video Web (which could be cast in your all-inclusive/subsuming reasoning.) Most folks seem to acknowledge that data formats and display technologies are tools that are fit for specific purposes.

    “3D Web” puts one technology in the forefront, and without any particulary compelling rationale.

    BTW – I never mentioned the 2D Web, nor framed the debate in that context.

    Randy

  26. This discussion reminds me of:

    http://damienkatz.net/2006/04/error_code_vs_e.html

    It’s a discussion of error handling in OOP, but here’s the relevant bit:

    I remember a crummy movie with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore where Demi was the bad guy. I don’t remember much about it except that for some reason the movie — with no relevance to the plot other than they worked in a tech company — included a virtual reality sequence that was suppose to showcase a brilliant advance in data retrieval UI.

    The system worked by immersing you into a virtual reality representation of a library. Then, you could walk around the library to find the information you need. You’d navigate by following categorized signs, and then further narrowed categories until you found the virtual bookshelf with the virtual book of information you’re looking for. That’s supposed to be a huge advance in data retrieval, it made finding information as simple as going to the library.

    Here’s the problem: What’s the very first thing you do when you want to find a book in a real library? You walk over to a computer and use the digital card catalog system.

  27. [...] Raph Koster’s Roadmap roundup and his further thoughts, in which he highlights one of my favorite ideas when thinking about things like this: technology should follow needs. (Which is not to say that it’s my ideas, just one I like.) [...]

  28. Does anyone have any numbers on Neopets.com cash flow? Do we even know what it would cost to advertise there, like puzzle Pirates does?

  29. [...] Raph Kostera>: “Some of the best indicators of coming metaverses are Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, mySpace, Amazon, and eBay. That’s where the volume is.” [...]

  30. [...] Raph’s Website � Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit Raph Koster’s thoughts on the Metaverse summit… including my…ahem…explosion… (tags: immweb secondlife blogs) [...]

  31. [...] Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit – Raph Koster’s thoughts after the event. [...]

  32. I think that’s because the Metaverse (or as I like to call it, SecondVerseSameastheFirst) is in a really narrow groove of Panelverse types who just migrate from one panel to another on somebody *else’s* dime. You need to get both more RL people who don’t do this panel stuff for a living AND you need to bring in people who actually do business exclusively inside these worlds (like Anshe Chung), not those both in and around them and sponsoring all the conferences(like ESC).

    Actually, I must say that the mix was a good one. The spread in virtual world designers covered 20 years, after all, enough to encompass representatives from multiple generations of technology. Unsurprisingly, there were different points of view across all of these eras. There were nonprofit reps looking for solutions to their problems, there were sales people and folks from other businesses, and pie in the sky tech people who don’t care abot an audience, and grounded biz folks who want to know where the profit is. It was a healthy mix, I thought. It wasn’t all the usual suspects.

  33. Actually, I’d have to disagree. You don’t get diversity just from “multiple generations of technology” — for something as big and far-reaching and impactful as “the Metaverse” it seems to me that you need to have people from all walks of life, including non-technological — not just users, but thinkers and doers from a wide variety of fields. I don’t see the different viewpoints appearing in the blogs — not yet, anyway. It’s a lot of enthusiastic cheerleadering. The “non-profit” types were like Randy Moss of American Cancer Society which is already in SL and promoting it — but not people who had never heard of SL. That would be the real test — take people who are smart and involved and doing great things but never heard of any of this and see — does it work for them?

    The “grounded biz folks” who want to know where the profit is are *not inworld*. They are not DOING the Metaverse but just studying about it or exploring it or talking about it. That’s my point, Raph, sorry but, as I said, you didn’t have Anshe Chung — who reportedly makes $150,000 a year from her world-creation business and who was featured on the cover of Business Week. You could all talk *about* that BW article but not include the people who *really do it* (except of course for ESC which is a sponsor).

    I imagine they seem like the “usual suspects” to me because I just keep seeing the same names everywhere — but then I’m just tuning in the last 2 years or so. You’re obviously far more traveled in this field, I’m just describing how it looks in my neck of the woods mainly around SL. The panelists at this conference, SOP III, SXSW — all the same from SL. But SL is a much bigger world, and beyond SL is even more of a big world.

  34. Hmm, I guess I see Anshe as both an outlier and, in terms of the broad progress of virtual worlds, a footnote. And it seems to me there’s a contradiction inherent in your post in asking for people to both be in-world making something and also be from all walks of life. Second Life is populated almost exclusively by early adopter geeks of one sort of another. All the talk of Anshe Chung is exactly “enthusiastic cheerleadering” as you put it. There was more value in having someone like Esther Dyson there, who isn’t in virtual worlds at all, but is very plugged into the broader technological landscape.

    I agree that multiple generations of virtual world developers doesn’t necessarily bring a diversity of viewpoints. But what struck me was that the longer that the developer in question had been in virtual worlds, the less likely they were to see the metaverse popping up. How much of this was rigidness wedded to old ways of thinking, and how much was the voice of experience talking to the novices, I don’t know.

    I also very much agree that a wider array of people needed to be involved in the discussions — I commented as such while there, too.

  35. You know, I always find it a bit amusing that names like Anshe Chung always come up when naming SL’s successes (or at least such names seem to be mentioned with the purpose illustrating success within SL), and yet during my (albeit short) time in SL, I recall Anshe Chung and the other “land barons” being reviled by the masses in the VW.

    I mean, it’s obvious why these characters are celebritized, since other people will see sparkly dollar bills before their eyes and look at SL as their next “get rich quick” opportunity. But, while I was around SL, such folks were widely regarded as experience-killers.

  36. Raph, excuse me, but you’re out of date and out of touch on Second Life. Those early adapter geeks are in a very distinct minority now — actually some of them got bored and went off to play WoW because they are sandboxers and not world-builders. There’s 260,000 odd people signed up now, some 60,000 of them active log-ons in the last 60 days, and the overwhelming majority of them aren’t early adapter geeks but people from all those walks of life I’m talking about coming in the door for all kinds of reasons ranging from entertainment to socializing to education to art.

    I have to Laugh Out Loud that you’d call Anshe Chung an “outlier”. YOU are the outlier, Raph Koster, when it comes to this virtual world the size of Boston. You don’t live in the world that is at the cutting edge of the Metaverse. We *do*. We live and breathe it many many hours a week — you appear to be just parachuting into it. We’re adapting to how norms and codes and experiences are going to be working in this world. You’re at a conference, I’m sorry, I don’t care how many Internet guru geek credentials you have, you can’t capture something as big as the Metaverse by yourself.

    Anshe isn’t a footnote — you and your conferees are the footnotes. Anshe has 125 private islands with hundreds of people. I have hundreds of customers too. *We live here, you cannot dismiss us so easily.*

    For a project as gigantic and universe-shattering and changing as the Metaverse, there indeed have to be early adapters, middle adapters, late adapters. I totally reject any term like “outlier” for someone who is IN THE WORLD. I find it the worst kind of arrogance to be trying to marginalize them and their practical and intellectual contribution merely because they don’t have geek-world credentials. Baloney. This is going to be all different than your Internet. The kinds of people who start and maintain and change this giant thing should indeed come from all walks. Any enterprise of this momentous occasion demands the kind of panels and conferences you see on subjects like world peace or AIDS, like everyone from Vaclav Havel to George Soros to Jimmy Carter to Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandala and many many other kinds of leaders– thinkers, poets, entrepreneurs, statesmen. If not leaders of these stature, at least people in those categories of human endeavour who can do some thinking about this beyond the box of the little geeky inliers and their preoccupations.

    Just because the *talk* about Anshe was enthusiastic cheerleading doesn’t mean what she and other community developers do in Second Life is brainless or intellectually unimportant and uninteresting. This notion that these land barons are “reviled by the masses” is one of the cherished myth of the feted inner core, of course; the reality is the masses are all living on the land barons estates quite happily. This is all something to ponder.

    I’m sorry, Raph Koster, but all of this is too important to just let YOU decide and interpret the virtuality. You’re going to have to *share*.

  37. Whoa, there! TO start with, I meant outlier as in “almost nobody else is making that kind of money.” In that sense, Anshe is a statistical anomaly, correct? That’s the usual meaning of the term “outlier” — a point in the distribution that is way off the normal. There’s definitely things to learn from statistical anomalies, but something like the metaverse is not going to be built from statistical anomalies.

    If anything, the conference was heavily populated by Second Life fans… it certainly came up a disproportionate number of times. Enough times, in fact, that I was certainly not the only one thinking to myself, “cut it out with the Second Life examples, your bias is showing too clearly.” I freely confess to being out of touch with Second Life myself. But perhaps that also gives me a bit of perspective on it. And one piece of perspective that is important is that it is not as big nor as diverse as you seem to think.

    Let’s start with the stats you cite. 60,000 active logins in 60 days means 60,000 active players, period. The other 200,000 are people who quit. In fact, most worlds use active in 30 days as the metric of active players. UO is 9 years old and boasts larger figures.

    I’ve heard (though have not verified) that SL gets around 6000 peak concurrent. Guild Wars just hit 100,000 concurrent players. Do you really think that it is statistically likely that Second Life is more diverse and representative of the general population? Second Life isn’t even available in other languages and territories to my knowledge.

    By any measure of popular penetration, SL is small. I agree that it has an importance disproportionate to its size; I also think it has a fantastic hype machine. As a comparison, the ChibaMOO Web World had comparable figures of registered users — in 1994. Cybertown had 40,000 active users the last time I logged into it, which was last century.

    Anshe isn’t a footnote — you and your conferees are the footnotes. Anshe has 125 private islands with hundreds of people. I have hundreds of customers too. *We live here, you cannot dismiss us so easily.*

    Oh, come on. I have been in that situation, and seen that situation, dozens of times. And today, yes, those leaders, those communities are footnotes. Anshe isn’t the first person to make over $100,000 doing commerce in and around a virtual world, not by a long shot. Even leaving out the IGEs of the world, many the “gaming networks” we see today are the descendants of people who struck it rich by building UO fansites. :P Pople have been making profits off of virtual worlds for decades.

    Now, you need to balance this comment with the knowledge that I have been a booster of Second Life for a LONG time. I’ve evangelized it, I’ve tried to help cut business deals for it, and I’ve spent hours with Philip and Cory and Robin. Hell, Robin came to Austin to give me a private demo back when it was in early testing. I think that what has been accomplished there is wonderful.

    Nowhere did I say that Anshe’s contributions would have been “valueless.” Nowhere did I say that the work players do in world is “brainless or intellectually unimportant and uninteresting.” I said that in terms of the broad progress of the metaverse, the fact that yet another person has managed to make a lot of money is going to go down as a footnote in history, because it’s merely another data point on a trend. Having Anshe there would have been great. But using Anshe as proof that everything is somehow different now — that I don’t buy.

    I would have LOVED to have as diverse a group as you cite at that conference. But most of those people would rightfully not deign to come. We’ve got a while yet before virtual worlds have the sort of audiences that merit that sort of attendance.

    Lastly, I don’t know what to make of your final comments, to be honest. I didn’t set up the conference; I argued that it needed a more diverse attendance. I wouldn’t pick Anshe Chung, though — having Wagner James Au serves just as well. We could have used, instead, a top guild leader from FFXI or WoW to talk about difficult coordination in virtual spaces, and not asynch businesses; a few Korean players who could tell us what life is like when virtual worlds are mainstream; the developer of Coke Music, which has 2.5 million users; someone from Habbo Hotel (which has seven million active users in a month), someone from Cyworld (which has reached 98% of the population of Korea)… even just getting the spread of virtual world populations right would have been a help. The fact that at least ten people in the room were Second Life players was part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    So I say to you, you think I’m the one who is not sharing?

  38. Brian, great questions. Apologies for somewhat fuzzy data, recalling ~two year old pitch (yes, I have been peddling it that long).
    Myspace: insanely profitable before aquistion. We speaking multi-M$ per month here. Ads, selling branded band apparel, probably other services.
    Habbo: ~$20M/y something, Newpets: ~$50M/y
    Surprising? Not at all. If you got multi-million audiences, monetizing is a no-brainer.

    Marketing budgets. Just change the industry to see perspective. Does all these silly MSFT dinosaur Office ads make you use google less? Any plans to buy Office 10? :) Heh, you crashed writing comment, so one day you will discovery Writely which saves everything you type on server the moment you type it, and no amount of marketing $$ will make you go back. Now translate same perspective to Sony/NCSoft budgets you mentioned. They will defend old model trying to over-market EQ over WoW and vice versa, while web 2.0 startups will fly right under their guns offering new models. buggy whip makers do have huge budgets – its just they spending them to prove this whip is better then the other guy whip or making a bigger, better, HDTV-compatible whip. “Only our MMO will have realistic modeling of Trolls armpit hairs!” These huge war chests would have been much better spent building “new model” products, yet given average talent / innovation ratio in BigCo Inc. that’s next to impossible. Or they could be buying out startups early like Google does. however given how retarded gamedev is comparing to rest of software industry I doubt that will happen (although you never know. the cool touch of cold air from descending axe is known to trigger untypical relapses of rationality even in worse cases of BigCo mind-melt. From time to time)

    you are right on survival potential. They are profitable, successful businesses, which may go on for decades. Just like IBM still makes good chunk of cash selling replacement mainfraimes and consulting to Kraft. instead of publishers implosion Ralf talks about, perhaps we will see gradual decline into senility. Less and less worlds built, less user interest and press, more attention shifting to “web 2.0”-like blends between games and social networks and that’s where people will spent ever increasing amounts of their online-time. At some point we will just remember last ditch hardcore holdouts of WoW and 2L players like we react to ThePalace folk today “omg, its so cute you still playing that!”

  39. It’s very curious to me that you conceive of Anshe as an “outlier,” and that “outliers” are merely people who boringly make money off a platform, as if doing that is some kind of skill-grind and gold-farm that doesn’t involve having a stake in its development — as if the development of platforms and technology and such are just your area, and the rest of the activity in and on and around the platform is just for the fans.

    I find there’s a horrible, horrible, hangover from this MMORPG culture you’ve all imbined for decades that is hugely destructive and is near to strangling the infant of the Metaverse in its cradle. You conceive of worlds as if they all involve skilling, leveling up, killing orcs, and getting advice from NPS and Wizards. YOUR goal is to be the ultimate Wizard (like a resident becoming a Linden). But there’s no objective need to force these memes and cultural institutions of MMORPGs, with their rigid, stratified, tekkie-serving forms of governance on virtual worlds just because they’re virtual, and you can fly in them. None whatsoever. Indeed, to the extent that we can shatter this horrid MMORPG culture with its fanboyz and resmods and alt-outings and rare-hoarding, we’re be that much farther ahead.

    It’s an outrage to think that Hamlet nee Linden Au could speak for any of us inworld, when he is merely a former house organ writer, or government public relations officer, paid for and hosted on the Linden servers, who covered what was important for LL’s own sales and profit, but not necessarily what was important for the development of the world itself, or the Metaverse as a project larger than LL, whatever it’s control of the servers. To say that it’s “just as good to have Hamlet” because he can presumably speak in a savvy and coherent way at a sophisticated university or industry panel and people who “just make money” are chumps is to miss a lot of what is important and different about the world.

    Anshe or any of us inside of Second Life aren’t just fans, and we aren’t just making money and we aren’t just a big server load test of feebs and choads and blingtards. We’re the pioneers in this new country really trying to live in it as if you could really live in it. Anshe has a lot to tell you about not just merely the flipping of land and the making of money, but the really intensive and numerous issues of how you create virtual communities, how they get along, how to do dispute resolution, how to devise and implement rules and devise them, how to deal with arbitrary and unfair state policies, how to compensate for world exigencies on servers and the limitation of tools, and a hundred other useful ideas, issues, and realities of virtuality that you seem unwilling to concede as a field of expertise or knowledge.

    Your part in it is never a game, eh? It’s always us playing the game. But you get to play the meta-game of talking about the game at a panel in Panelverse, so you are better? No.

    The outlier status of Anshe even in your defined notion is debatable. The story is about Chinese immigrant coming to first one RL country and then coming to the virtual country of SL and striking gold through perseverance and hard work. That experience is one that Philip Linden consciously celebrates — his favourite story is to imagine the young man in the third-world country who will make an invention in SL that will feed his family and lift him from poverty. The rags-to-riches dream story of the kind that animated the settlement of America is an important story, regardless of whether there are only a tiny percentage of actually wealthy people. The animating factor for people coming will be that dream. That’s something to take seriously; calling it a “footnote” would be like saying that your ancestors or mine coming to America and their aspirations are merely a “footnote” in American history, when they are not. Whether they fled pogroms or forced famines, whether they merely survived or struck it rich, the push and pull factors of the project called America doesn’t make “footnotes” out of things like that but makes statesmen, poets, culture.

    A country with 60,000 people in it logging on regularly from the Americas, Europe, and Asia (not much from Africa or Eurasia) isn’t a country that is going to be terribly diverse. But it’s actually rather more diverse than you are prepared to give it credit for.

    I’m sure you have vastly more experience in virtual worlds, obviously you’re the famous guru and I’m only the infamous antagonist. But I do think you have to think outside the MMORPG gaming box here. This isn’t gold-farming in UO or WoW. This is cashing out to RL money to pay RL bills using skills that aren’t grinding and skilling and questing but are more complex and sophisticated having to do with market determination, problem-solving, community building, legal interpretation, etc. that in my view, require a variety of disciplines and bodies of human knowledge to be brought to bear on it as it develops.

    You make a very interesting comment about what it would be like to collect leaders, or even randomly selected inhabitants of everything from Habbo Hotel to Cyworld. I love that idea. I hope this Star Wars Bar kind of Metaverse Meet-Up happens even without all these game companies and the industry hangers-on in the supposedly independent world of academe. I hope that in fact the collective social pressure of all those people and their needs and wants and ideas will constitute a force for change that will be part of what goes beyond (overthrows) the game companies. Right now, we don’t really have a resident community independent of Lindens for all kind of factors, having to do with the smallness of the world, and the fact that 1/3 of the Linden staff comes from former residents. But this day will come.

    I quite take your point about these latest conferences all being filled with SL cheerleaders. I think you have only click around on their sites to see what sponsors there are to understand why that is happening. If Linden Lab or Electric Sheep Company or Future Salon/Accelerating Change Foundation etc are the sponsors, then their networks will necessarily all be of a type, and all around the SL Kool-Aid nexus. But…The rest of us can’t complain if we didn’t raise the venture capital not only to make a world, but to then conference about it endlessly at funded prestigious academic venues.

    Virtual worlds may not yet merit the attention of these world-class leaders of the Nobel Peace Prize caliber, let’s say. But I imagine it will happen sooner than you think. I wouldn’t have thought Harvard would show up as fast as it did in SL.

    The Metaverse Roadmap isn’t likely to have significant genuine public input. It appears to be a geeky and wonky privileged and even clunky process that focuses too literally on hardware and technical advancement now for most people to be able to make meaningful input. What’s scary about it to me is that the people holding the cards close to their chests about the technological development and discussing it only among their own verhy select and vetted and apprenticed peers are indeed the ones not willing to share with others — they’re setting the bar very high by making it seem that without technical knowledge of how servers and streaming technology work, you can’t make any contribution. They’re replicating the Snowcrash memes.

    That just seem wacky to me. Scientists made the nuclear bomb, too, and the rest of society and its thinkers have been catching up ever since and making sure that things like this aren’t done in a vacuum. The people of your world seem to have gone from the concerns of C.P. Snow that scientists weren’t included in high policy discussions of society and were left out by statesmen and writers, to completely overthrowing those political and literary people and saying that unless they can become conversant in technical jargon and notions they can’t play. It’s skewed again.

    As for your “hours with Philip and Cory and Robin” I can only say: 30 points for you in Strategic SL, Raph, you’re coming close to beating the bosses, just a little bit more skilling and leveling and finding rares! But…Your hours are spent server-side, dude. I’ve probably spent *more* hours with them, come to think of it, but client-side, inworld, where the short end of the stick can be more painful, sitting in crashing town-meetings and struggling to communicate in half sentences typed out about things like the ridiculous hippie dope-smoking group tools and their flaws.

    Really, you’re continuing to imply that what an Anshe does or anybody with business in these worlds isn’t intellectually exciting because you can only describe it as money making in the next sentence where you claim you didn’t mean to imply it wasn’t brainless.

    I really have to say, Raph, that if I were going to have a really serious discussion about how to make groups work, and what groups can and can’t leverage in a virtual society, and what tools are needed for them to work, and their dangers and advantages, if I had a choice of having that discussion with Beth Noveck of NYLS who created Democracy Island, and wrote a fascinating but hugely troubling essay on groups and democracy, and who has logged on probably about 3 times since giving the initial project demonstration, or having that discussion with Anshe Chung, who probably spends 16 or even 20 hours a day in SL, I’d pick Anshe Chung. She doesn’t have 6 Phds. But she has incredibly valuable field experience. I can’t emphasize enough how you need to get out more, and find a way for people with this actual field experience to participate.

    Most of these millions of people in these games don’t yet have the self-consciousness about their participation in a thing called the Metaverse to take their fate in their own hands.

    Yet we need to burn it in now for elites and their advisors who think they will run this thing properly without widespread, democratic participation:

    “Nothing about us/without us!”

  40. Regarding the log-ons and concurrency of SL, I could add that what surprises me is the velocity at which these are increasing. Last year there were 40,000 sign-ups – now there are 260,000. I wouldn’t say that people all quit, however. I have dealt with thousands of these people as my own customers in the last year. Many people get frustrated or bored, but they understand SL is something special and they save their accounts, sometimes even saving a store with content still for sale in it. They check back in, they try it when it is less crashy or when they get a better computer or it adds features they’re interested in, like the recent support for machinima or HUD attachments.

    Gosh, I’m the last one to overhype the Borg. I criticize it in my blog daily. But having been in TSO for 2 years intensively, and also having been briefly in some of these other worlds or watched my kids play in them, like Runescape or Neopets or WoW, I’d have to say there is something very different about SL, not only because of the way it hooks up to real life and cashes out money to real dollars legally, but because of the kinds of communities that form and function in it. The story of Second Life is probably going to be about the revolution of groups, and not groups just going in a WoW instance and killing monsters and looting the corpses, but groups accomplishing more complex and interesting things in the field of education, health, politics, civic organizing, art, culture, etc. I actually think that in 10 years time, people will talk about “secondlifing” something, putting some enterprise they are doing into the virtual space to manage and manipulate and do it in virtual ways connected to their real ways, and they will also create private and defined worlds-within-worlds that will be places that many people will live in, during a good chunk of their disposable time. More and more people will get paid to do this.

  41. First, let me say that I am not attacking anything here, and I get this aggrieved tone from you that I don’t quite understand. You have a mix of frustration with, and passion for, Second Life which is the hallmark of a true believer. I’m not trying to attack the things you believe in, so there’s no need to get defensive.

    Let me clarify the outlier thing. Yes, Anshe’s story is amazing. It is even part of a trend, and I don’t just mean the “earning real world money” trend. But Anshe’s story is so amazing and Anshe has made so much money that it’s just not representative of what most people are like or what they are actually accomplishing. It’s a statistical outlier. It’s AVERAGE person who matters more, not the occasional shooting star, it’s the way in which the world is TYPICALLY used that matters more. I am far more interested in the people who rent fom the land barons, than in the land barons themselves. Those individuals will not have stories nearly as compelling, but they are more representative of the whole.

    I don’t think that my comments were coming from tekkie/MMORPG culture. Indeed, I was attacking the infatuation with cool tech, in my original post. And the examples I have been referencing are far more mass market and not very gamey at all. They ARE very “entertainy” though.

    As far as the techie governance thing — I note that Second Life has not adopted the Declaration yet either. I’ve been arguing on your side of the fence on that one for a very long time. The whole dispute resolution and group coordination thing is very very far from being a new issue. I am sure that Anshe can bring huge amounts of information to the table on it, but I am also positive that it isn’t going to show as a massive break in tradition from earlier worlds. I also think that it shows a little bit of a lack of awareness of what I’ve done in the past to say that I am not interested in communicating with players or in allowing them participation in the discussion or even administration of these worlds.

    What I am arguing for, really, is some perspective. In the larger scope of virtual worlds, yes, I’ll say it again, Hamlet Linden and Anshe are offering much the same point of view. It’s a very idealistic, empowering point of view, and that’s not a bad thing to have around, but it can also be a bit naive. Hamlet’s group was the one that came up with the whole Darfur thing, for example. The political battles over who represents the Lindens’ viewpoint or not is below the radar of the sort of discussions we were having. Those battles are writ small over and over and over again in every world.

    I didn’t put together the conference. I would have liked to have had more world users there, and from more worlds. I quite agree with you on the points about broader participation. I also completely concede that any given citizen of SL is going to know far more about SL than I will. I reject the notion that in order to talk about it, I have to be in it 20 hours a week. I think there’s a forest-for-the-trees category error going on there. It’s simply a different viewpoint.

    On your other post; I agree there are some good points to be made in favor of SL exceptionalism. The velocity of acquisition is indeed very strong, and the integration of real world commerce is fresh and exciting. We should not lose sight of the tradition from which is sprang, however; you can probably find a LambdaMOO analogue to everything else in SL, such as the forms of social construction, etc. Again, just a perspective thing. All the details will be different; many of the headlines will be the same.

  42. >First, let me say that I am not attacking anything here, and I get this aggrieved tone from you that I don’t quite understand. You have a mix of frustration with, and passion for, Second Life which is the hallmark of a true believer. I’m not trying to attack the things you believe in, so there’s no need to get defensive.

    Great way to minimize my contribution, there, Raph, make me seem like a raving fan LOL. A “true believer”, blecth. Did you not know I’m permabanned from the SL forums lol? The aggrieved tone is one not peculiar only to me, but is felt by others who are locked out of the process of development by exclusivist claims by “developers” who never ask themselves: who develops? Why do THEY get to develop and be the developers and not somebody else? Of course they can’t ask that of themselves — we’ll have to get them to do it.

    You seem to imply there’s this Tinkerbell called Second Life that I “believe in”. Do I clap my little avatar hands with the clap gesture and maybe she’ll come? It’s not about “belief,” it just is. John Lester is standing up in Berkman Center right now and we’re watching him in world (He’s Pathfinder Linden) and calling SL the “shared dream”. I guess that’s their new meme for “evangelism” this week, and I think some might describe more the “shared nightmare.” Don’t mistake passion for something terribly important because it will shape our world awesomely in some fearsome ways, for mere religious-like “belief”.

    LL made the Metaverse you could really go and live and move and have your being in. It’s utterly flawed and maybe they should just scrap it and let someone else make a new one, there are many paths to the truth, but I tend to think about SL like I think about democracy: the worst virtual world, except for all the others LOL.

    >Let me clarify the outlier thing. Yes, Anshe’s story is amazing. It is even part of a trend, and I don’t just mean the “earning real world money” trend. But Anshe’s story is so amazing and Anshe has made so much money that it’s just not representative of what most people are like or what they are actually accomplishing.

    You keep hammering on the Anshe-makes-money story. We got that. But you’re totally missing the Anshe-makes-virtual-communities story and Anshe-fights-powerful-authoritarian-government-to-create-civil-society story. This story is not about a quick buck selling pet rocks in the sky.
    You keep describing Anshe as “money maker” and seemingly refuse to take seriously her world-making capacity. Surely you don’t think that only those making FPS toys-for-boys worlds are the only world-makers? Surely the girl stuff can count too like houses and relationships and villages and continents?

    >It’s a statistical outlier. It’s AVERAGE person who matters more, not the occasional shooting star, it’s the way in which the world is TYPICALLY used that matters more. I am far more interested in the people who rent fom the land barons, than in the land barons themselves. Those individuals will not have stories nearly as compelling, but they are more representative of the whole.

    Yeah, I got that. The point is, the thing driving the land barons is the same thing driving the land barons’ tenants. I’m only a medium-sized land baron, and there are now so many of them that many new people coming in will easily overtake me because the world has gotten so big. I do have to say I know a lot about the people who rent from the land barons as I spend lots of time listening to what they want, seeing what they do in SL, what SL means to them, how they cope with SL, what it gives and what it takes. And I’m trying to convey to you that if you are truly interested in what those people think, you should come in SL and do a business or some other kind of activity rather than just perching at conferences. Seriously.

    If nothing else, Just Being Raph Koster, as I gather, would be a little mini-SL-business itself, and a shop on a 512 where all you did was just be would get loads of traffic. Probably the t-shirt sales alone would pay your tier bill.

    >I don’t think that my comments were coming from tekkie/MMORPG culture. Indeed, I was attacking the infatuation with cool tech, in my original post. And the examples I have been referencing are far more mass market and not very gamey at all. They ARE very “entertainy” though.

    OK, granted, I’m glad you see that.

    >As far as the techie governance thing — I note that Second Life has not adopted the Declaration yet either. I’ve been arguing on your side of the fence on that one for a very long time.

    I read your Avatar Rights and I found them very insufficient. We’re not just avatars in MMORPGs anymore. We’re people who have become “as angels”.
    I would dare you to spend even one hour a week trying to push your Avatar Bill of Rights *inworld* and seriously correcting them with more RL rule of law considerations needed there, protection of consumer rights and not just creator rights being just one of many topics. Start by putting up a proposal on this soi-disant “democratic vote tool”.

    You’ll quickly discover that you can’t even vote “NO” on the thing — what kind of democracy is THAT? This was designed by social-engineering geeks.
    So I hope you’ll support my Prop 1242
    https://secondlife.com/vote/index.php?get_id=1242

    >The whole dispute resolution and group coordination thing is very very far from being a new issue.

    Surely. But there are certain received-wisdom clubs around Internet memes like the celebrators of “The Wisdom of Crowds” or “The Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”. I’ve got a lot of criticism of these group-think reifiers:
    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2005/09/the_core_is_our.html

    >I am sure that Anshe can bring huge amounts of information to the table on it, but I am also positive that it isn’t going to show as a massive break in tradition from earlier worlds.

    Actually very important battles have been played out, like, do you seek political power by busing your tenants to the polls like the communists? or do you use the ward heelers’ methods of door-to-door service? or do you call in chits in the favour bank? There is a wide range of how groups are formed and how they function but of course we’re stuck with the hippie tools until the reforms come — which might come someday like Havoc 2 is supposed to come.

    >I also think that it shows a little bit of a lack of awareness of what I’ve done in the past to say that I am not interested in communicating with players or in allowing them participation in the discussion or even administration of these worlds.

    No, I’m well aware of your role and all your past laurels and have read your essays, but I’m inviting you to stop dining out on them, stop theorizing, and do it in SL where it is available to be done *really*.
    You want to be on the Internet? Be on the Internet in 3pointD.

    >What I am arguing for, really, is some perspective. In the larger scope of virtual worlds, yes, I’ll say it again, Hamlet Linden and Anshe are offering much the same point of view.

    Oh, *hardly*. Hamlet has a keyhole take on the world from his perch that is as I described it above. It’s the same well-worn rolladex of FIC and SIC as I call them, either the early adapters and their guild apprentices or the elites who are able to leverage technical knowledge to be sherpas in the virtual world to corporations. This elite bears nothing in common with the populations in Ansheland, though of course they overlap.

    >It’s a very idealistic, empowering point of view, and that’s not a bad thing to have around, but it can also be a bit naive. Hamlet’s group was the one that came up with the whole Darfur thing, for example.

    I’m not sure of the genesis of this whole Camp Darfur, but in SL, you have to follow the land ownership and who tiers the sim to understand the politics. Camp Darfur is located on the Better World sim. The Better World sim is something the Omidyar.net people are funding — that’s the ebay guy as you know, and he’s one of the chief venture capitalists funding Linden Lab.

    >The political battles over who represents the Lindens’ viewpoint or not is below the radar of the sort of discussions we were having. Those battles are writ small over and over and over again in every world.

    Granted. I would submit that these little parochial discussions that seem like inside baseball or the PTA meeting are in fact around issues that are going to become terribly important as people begin to live more and more of their lives in these worlds. Yes, every world, but everyworld where you logged off when the monster was killed, the quest was over, the skill-up was achieved. This is different stuff now.

    >I didn’t put together the conference. I would have liked to have had more world users there, and from more worlds. I quite agree with you on the points about broader participation. I also completely concede that any given citizen of SL is going to know far more about SL than I will. I reject the notion that in order to talk about it, I have to be in it 20 hours a week. I think there’s a forest-for-the-trees category error going on there. It’s simply a different viewpoint.

    I think someone like yourself, with your background, and ideas, would do well to put them into practice in SL itself. I think if you set a task for yourself like, “I’m going to open up a business to do X” or “I’m going to hold an event every week” or even just “I’m going to get the tier paid” you will create a friction and an experience-gathering-vehicle that will change your outlook.

    >On your other post; I agree there are some good points to be made in favor of SL exceptionalism. The velocity of acquisition is indeed very strong, and the integration of real world commerce is fresh and exciting. We should not lose sight of the tradition from which is sprang, however; you can probably find a LambdaMOO analogue to everything else in SL, such as the forms of social construction, etc. Again, just a perspective thing. All the details will be different; many of the headlines will be the same.

    I didn’t do LamdaMoo — I’m not a gamer. But from what I gather, LambdaMOO didn’t cash out money. LamdaMOO didn’t have Harvard settle in it. LamdaMOO didn’t teach teenagers how to run businesses. LambdaMOO didn’t help stroke patients. LamdaMOO had its marriage breakups and love affairs but nothing on the level of SL. To say anything more will merely only fit your stereotype of some zealous “believer”. Just try to spend even one hour using this platform to achieve something, face the frustrations and the sense of accomplishment, and see if it doesn’t give you a wealth of knowledge.

    Just try putting over your Avatar Bill of Rights. I dare you!

    (I’m happy even to give you free kiosks on 30 sims to place your Bill out for discussion).

  43. *settles in with popcorn*

  44. [...] There is a great discussion happening on Raph Koster’s blog about the Metaverse and Metaverse Roadmap Summit between Prokofy Neva and Raph. Worth checking out. [...]

  45. Great way to minimize my contribution, there, Raph, make me seem like a raving fan LOL. A “true believer”, blecth. Did you not know I’m permabanned from the SL forums lol? The aggrieved tone is one not peculiar only to me, but is felt by others who are locked out of the process of development by exclusivist claims by “developers” who never ask themselves: who develops? Why do THEY get to develop and be the developers and not somebody else? Of course they can’t ask that of themselves — we’ll have to get them to do it.

    I am not trying to paint you as a raving fan. I’ve read your blog — I know you are not. But you clearly are a passionate believer in what Second Life is trying to be. I mean, these are quotes from you:

    “LL made the Metaverse you could really go and live and move and have your being in.”
    “stop theorizing, and do it in SL where it is available to be done *really*. You want to be on the Internet? Be on the Internet in 3pointD.”
    “You don’t live in the world that is at the cutting edge of the Metaverse. We *do*”
    “We’re the pioneers in this new country really trying to live in it as if you could really live in it.”

    Those are the statements of someone passionately committed. Not to SL’s management, but to the thing itself.

    You keep hammering on the Anshe-makes-money story.

    No, you brought it up. The specific quote:

    “That’s my point, Raph, sorry but, as I said, you didn’t have Anshe Chung — who reportedly makes $150,000 a year from her world-creation business and who was featured on the cover of Business Week.”

    That said…

    We got that. But you’re totally missing the Anshe-makes-virtual-communities story and Anshe-fights-powerful-authoritarian-government-to-create-civil-society story. This story is not about a quick buck selling pet rocks in the sky.
    You keep describing Anshe as “money maker” and seemingly refuse to take seriously her world-making capacity. Surely you don’t think that only those making FPS toys-for-boys worlds are the only world-makers? Surely the girl stuff can count too like houses and relationships and villages and continents?

    Dude, you’re telling ME about houses and player villages? Give me a break. There are probably still more player-owned houses in the games I’ve worked on than in all of Second Life.

    The “person makes virtual communities” story and the “person fights powerful authoritarian government to create civil society” stories aren’t why anyone talks about Anshe. They talk about Anshe because Anshe is on the cover of Business Week and made over $150,000 last year, as you yourself said. Because after all, the “person makes virtual communities” story and the “person fights powerful authoritarian government to create civil society” stories are old. Old wine, new bottles. Yes, all the details are different, but the storyline is the same.

    Yeah, I got that. The point is, the thing driving the land barons is the same thing driving the land barons’ tenants. I’m only a medium-sized land baron, and there are now so many of them that many new people coming in will easily overtake me because the world has gotten so big. I do have to say I know a lot about the people who rent from the land barons as I spend lots of time listening to what they want, seeing what they do in SL, what SL means to them, how they cope with SL, what it gives and what it takes. And I’m trying to convey to you that if you are truly interested in what those people think, you should come in SL and do a business or some other kind of activity rather than just perching at conferences. Seriously.

    If nothing else, Just Being Raph Koster, as I gather, would be a little mini-SL-business itself, and a shop on a 512 where all you did was just be would get loads of traffic. Probably the t-shirt sales alone would pay your tier bill.

    When I play these games, I play incognito. I am not particularly interested in being a Net celebrity hanging out in SL. I’m much more interested in MAKING these worlds.

    I read your Avatar Rights and I found them very insufficient. We’re not just avatars in MMORPGs anymore. We’re people who have become “as angels”.

    Then write a new one. Seriously. Write one tailored for Second Life.

    I would dare you to spend even one hour a week trying to push your Avatar Bill of Rights *inworld* and seriously correcting them with more RL rule of law considerations needed there, protection of consumer rights and not just creator rights being just one of many topics. Start by putting up a proposal on this soi-disant “democratic vote tool”.

    You’ll quickly discover that you can’t even vote “NO” on the thing — what kind of democracy is THAT? This was designed by social-engineering geeks.
    So I hope you’ll support my Prop 1242
    https://secondlife.com/vote/index.php?get_id=1242

    See, you have to understand two things here:

    1. I don’t actually care what happens in Second Life except abstractly, and you care deeply. I know full well that I don’t know the details of what is going on in there, and that’s why I wouldn’t step in to support a Prop of any sort. I wouldn’t do that out of ignorance.

    2. As a fellow developer of virtual worlds, I try to stay out of critiques of the administration of other worlds unless it’s something I feel really strongly about. Especially given that given my relative notoriety, even a small comment can be writ large.

    Surely. But there are certain received-wisdom clubs around Internet memes like the celebrators of “The Wisdom of Crowds” or “The Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”. I’ve got a lot of criticism of these group-think reifiers:
    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2005/09/the_core_is_our.html

    It’s a good post. But I gotta say, knowing Clay, he’d think of YOU as one of thoe “members” who are “gardening.” By the force of your arguments and your postings, YOU are one of the caretakers of culture in SL.

    Actually very important battles have been played out, like, do you seek political power by busing your tenants to the polls like the communists? or do you use the ward heelers’ methods of door-to-door service? or do you call in chits in the favour bank? There is a wide range of how groups are formed and how they function but of course we’re stuck with the hippie tools until the reforms come — which might come someday like Havoc 2 is supposed to come.

    I agree those are important, but they aren’t new.

    No, I’m well aware of your role and all your past laurels and have read your essays, but I’m inviting you to stop dining out on them, stop theorizing, and do it in SL where it is available to be done *really*.
    You want to be on the Internet? Be on the Internet in 3pointD.

    Heh… FWIW, I don’t actually think that that’s the place to do it. I think it will take a new platform. You don’t actually know whether I am off theorizing fruitlessly right now, or actually doing something, either. :)

    Oh, *hardly*. Hamlet has a keyhole take on the world from his perch that is as I described it above. It’s the same well-worn rolladex of FIC and SIC as I call them, either the early adapters and their guild apprentices or the elites who are able to leverage technical knowledge to be sherpas in the virtual world to corporations. This elite bears nothing in common with the populations in Ansheland, though of course they overlap.

    The thing they have in common is that they are all believers in at least some of the core ideas that SL represents. Otherwise, they wouldn’t BE there.

    I’m not sure of the genesis of this whole Camp Darfur, but in SL, you have to follow the land ownership and who tiers the sim to understand the politics. Camp Darfur is located on the Better World sim. The Better World sim is something the Omidyar.net people are funding — that’s the ebay guy as you know, and he’s one of the chief venture capitalists funding Linden Lab.

    I was not referencing the one in SL, but the vision that was presented at the conference that I mentioned in the original post.

    Granted. I would submit that these little parochial discussions that seem like inside baseball or the PTA meeting are in fact around issues that are going to become terribly important as people begin to live more and more of their lives in these worlds. Yes, every world, but everyworld where you logged off when the monster was killed, the quest was over, the skill-up was achieved. This is different stuff now.

    Here, I think you are minimizing the amount of passion and social development that happens in the game worlds. I think if you reversed your challenge to me, and gave a given game world the same sort of attention you give SL, you’d find that in fact, similar meetings happen, with similar issues of governance, censorship, cliques, and so on.

    I think someone like yourself, with your background, and ideas, would do well to put them into practice in SL itself. I think if you set a task for yourself like, “I’m going to open up a business to do X” or “I’m going to hold an event every week” or even just “I’m going to get the tier paid” you will create a friction and an experience-gathering-vehicle that will change your outlook.

    I am trying to think of another way to put this… frankly, I do not have time right now to invest a workweek of time into SL, because I have my own things to do. You’ll just have to judge me by my actions once I can actually put what I say into practice. :)

    I didn’t do LamdaMoo — I’m not a gamer.

    LambdaMOO was not a game. LambdaMOO was, frankly, EXACTLY LIKE SECOND LIFE except in text. It had quotas for building. It had HUGE debates about government. They actually TRIED direct democracy, so maybe they were ahead of SL on that front. They had an “architectural review board” that approved what people would build, which caused a massive stink. They had people so invested in their virtual lives that one guy actually got another FIRED from their RL job over a virtual dispute.

    Look, I know from your blog that you are a reader of history. Here’s some history you really need to catch up on… this subsequent paragraph really reveals that you need to read up a bit.

    But from what I gather, LambdaMOO didn’t cash out money. LamdaMOO didn’t have Harvard settle in it. LamdaMOO didn’t teach teenagers how to run businesses. LambdaMOO didn’t help stroke patients. LamdaMOO had its marriage breakups and love affairs but nothing on the level of SL. To say anything more will merely only fit your stereotype of some zealous “believer”. Just try to spend even one hour using this platform to achieve something, face the frustrations and the sense of accomplishment, and see if it doesn’t give you a wealth of knowledge.

    I’ll pick just one: I am pretty much positive that more teenagers have learned how to run businesses from UO and SWG than have ever LOGGED INTO SL. You’re making your case for exceptionalism on the wrong points here.

    Just try putting over your Avatar Bill of Rights. I dare you!

    (I’m happy even to give you free kiosks on 30 sims to place your Bill out for discussion).

    You’re the citizen there. It should be YOUR bill, not mine! FWIW, I’ll cheerfully endorse ANYONE pushing for that doc in ANY game; I always have.

  46. Don’t mistake passion for something terribly important because it will shape our world awesomely in some fearsome ways…

    So, passion isn’t terribly important? Nevermind me, I’m just picking on your sentence structure.

    There has been a lot of hype regarding world-changing events since Man could believe. The Transhumanist community has been predicting the occurrence of the Singularity within the next decade… for the previous thirty to forty years. Religious fanatics of every denomination have been preaching armageddon for centuries. Technogeeks have been yapping about the onslaught of technological convergence for awhile now too. To Nostradamus’ credit, some of his predictions were eventually realized, but a significant majority of his babble resulted in nothing. Simply because a few of your many forecasts “come true”, or at least appear to materialize, doesn’t make you any more of a prophet than the next guy.

    Real prophets shape the future.

    Here some quotes by Peter F. Drucker. If you don’t know who that is, feel ashamed.

    Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.

    Don’t try to innovate for the future. Innovate for the present!

    We know only two things about the future: It cannot be known. It will be different from what exists now and from what we now expect.

    Successful leaders don’t start out asking, “What do I want to do?” They ask, “What needs to be done?” Then they ask, “Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me?”

  47. >I am not trying to paint you as a raving fan. I’ve read your blog — I know you are not. But you clearly are a passionate believer in what Second Life is trying to be. I mean, these are quotes from you:
    “LL made the Metaverse you could really go and live and move and have your being in.”
    >Those are the statements of someone passionately committed. Not to SL’s management, but to the thing itself.

    Well, sure. And you’re *not* passionate and committed to your end of the Metaverse pond? Of course you are! And I guess I’m merely saying that for someone as big and important as yourself — someone on that big IT list of 800 plus names that includes you and not Philip Linden BTW (LOL) — it just seems like a natural fit that you’d want to try some of the things you do in RL, so to speak, right there in SL. But I guess from your perspective, it makes no sense. I’m not seeing all the parts of the elephant here, I guess, and I hope to become more familiar with them to see why SL isn’t compelling for someone like you. Not everyone wants or needs a second life.

    >No, you brought it up. The specific quote:
    “That’s my point, Raph, sorry but, as I said, you didn’t have Anshe Chung — who reportedly makes $150,000 a year from her world-creation business and who was featured on the cover of Business Week.”

    Yes, you’re right, I brought it up, and in exactly that way, because otherwise, I find that if I say, “Hey, these are all the cool world-developers in SL” they aren’t compelling to important outsiders, and the mainstream media, unless you give them the little categorization tag they can use to compartmentalize it way up on their list, which is “she made $150,000 a year”. If you say “she rents or sells little dollhouses for girls to play in and even boys when they can be reluctantly torn away from their shooter and invention games” you’d roll your eyes. It’s very hard to convey.

    But I figure that given your interest and background, you’d be able to see it’s more than just playing house or playing store.

    >Dude, you’re telling ME about houses and player villages? Give me a break. There are probably still more player-owned houses in the games I’ve worked on than in all of Second Life.

    Wow! Well, yes, I’m testicular that way, I guess, in ways that the truly testicular aren’t LOL. Um…so…do the player-owned houses in your other games sell outside the game? Do they change hands in an internal users’ market? Can people sell them and even fund their college education like SL architect Lordfly Digeridoo claims (of course there’s more to the story there, but let’s just take it at face value now). Do these sales cash out and pay the actual RL rent? Probably not.

    >The “person makes virtual communities” story and the “person fights powerful authoritarian government to create civil society” stories aren’t why anyone talks about Anshe. They talk about Anshe because Anshe is on the cover of Business Week and made over $150,000 last year, as you yourself said.

    Yep, I realize all that, but that’s why I invite you to take on the story deeper, and that’s why I think Anshe belongs as a conference of something as august as mapping the Metaverse. I guess I just feel that Anshe and those like her in smaller ways, and I’m one of them, feel like outside the immediate issue of the technology, we already got started on really making the Metaverse, and I guess we feel as stakeholders, we should be recognized. This concept of stakeholder was one that we also tried and failed to get across to the Lindens, so it’s not surprising that others fail to recognize it. Still, eventually it will overtake your awareness, but not because we do it, but because a 1000 others do it.

    In the Metaverse, the bright red line, the border between producer and consumer, that you’ve kept as a holy province unto yourself as geeks for far too long, will be destroyed.

    >Because after all, the “person makes virtual communities” story and the “person fights powerful authoritarian government to create civil society” stories are old. Old wine, new bottles. Yes, all the details are different, but the storyline is the same.

    New bottles that actually shape the wine and its taste. That’s why it is different. I do believe it is a categorically different order of human experience. Hamlet is sort of stumbling around that on his current blogation about “orders of experiences” i.e. the embodied, immersive experience of perceiving oneselse in the virtual world.

    >When I play these games, I play incognito. I am not particularly interested in being a Net celebrity hanging out in SL. I’m much more interested in MAKING these worlds.

    OK, that’s interesting I suppose, but perhaps you could then start a Second Life? A non-Internet celebrity. Or, risk finding out that even if you went around with an avatar’s actual name the Lindens gave you, “Ralph Koster,” that had a group title, “Internet Celebrity” that probably 75 percent of the people wandering around SL now wouldn’t recognize you? They’d have no idea who you are? They’d maybe even not care? I’m sorry to put it to you that way, but Internet celebrities, as big as they are in the hothouse world of those immediately involved in making and caretaking the Internet, aren’t known to the wider public. You know, the Internet hasn’t been around really THAT long. Why, when I was young, we used to roll up documents and put them in these pneumatic tubes to have them air-delivered around a building LOL.

    All you’d have to do, is take that trivia list you just blogged about and put it out there to the masses, they’d not recognize probably most of the names on it.

    >Then write a new one. Seriously. Write one tailored for Second Life.

    Yes, sure thing. I began doing that last summer, back when we composed various principles and statements to King Philip when we first made the Metaverse Justice Watch and then other groups broke off and attemped this, like Concerned Residents or Residents Action Committee, etc. There have been lots of such groups springing up in the last year. The clashes caused by the Lindens co-opting the main resident-created, independent currency exchange, the GOM (making even a household verb as you may have heard, “GOM-ing”) and other actions like the telehub removal made avatars begin to declare their rights against the game-gods.

    I was hoping that when we were going through this exercise, that your avatar bill of rights, which I found and read then, since you said it was founded on the old principled documents like the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and such, would be a perfectly good document to cite (I think some did, some didn’t).

    But upon closer examination, I found some serious, serious problems with it. I imagine since 2000, all kinds of debates have been held on this, and I just haven’t caught up, but let me just deal with one glaring issue — collectivism touted as a school of thought, or as an organizing value, or as a and social system rather than individualism. Communism v. Capitalism, if you will. The typical geeky, leftoid sort of issue often encountered on the Internet. The RL UNDHR actually was a grand debate on just these issues pitting people like Eleanor Roosevelt against the Soviet ambassador to the UN. This split between individual freedoms and duties to the collective continue to plague UN debates to this day.

    ># Avatars are created free and equal in rights. Special powers or privileges shall be founded solely on the common good, and not based on whim, favoritism, nepotism, or the caprice of those who hold power. Those who act as ordinary avatars within the space shall all have only the rights of normal avatars.

    Created free and equal…but then whoops, a committee, a troika, a revolutionary body (Bolshevism) come along next to take all this away! How? Because “special powers or privileges” are going to be granted! By whom? Who gets to chose? How? On merit? On the strength of connections? Worse, the principle for such dispensing of special powers is…not the law, not the rule of law, not an institution with democratic and transparent participation but…”soley on the common good”. Well, geez, Raph, who gets to determine THAT? THAT is going to be a “self-evident truth”? Of course not!

    What’s good for experimenters and scripters is absolute unrestraint on the operation of scripts, including those that push and bounce and even crash your game. But what’s good for householders and settlers is to be free of the annoying consequences of overactive guns and overaggressive security scripts that push and bounce your avatar to kingdom come or teleport him home or even crash your game. So what is the common good here? A balance would have to be sought between sandboxers and settlers. Who will get to decide? The Lindens? But they’re biased in favour of sandboxers who help develop their product, even at the expense of settlers who pay for their bottom line. So what recourse is there? Civil war? Civic struggle? I point to this as just one of the drops in the bottomless well of issues to be decided.

    You cannot decide what the common good is, you, your geek pals, and your confreres at these conferences. That’s what this is about. You just *don’t get to decide what the common good is because we all don’t agree with you what is common, or what is good*. That’s what this is essentially about. There doesn’t have to be agreement. There can be management of conflict.

    But you’ve completely unleveled the playing field and thrown the game pieces off the board by this propagation of a belief, an oldfangled belief in newfangled cyber clothing, very deeply held in the geek/Internet/google/wikipedia ideology, which has no responsibility to any higher concept of a public commons (except what “the group decides”), which overcelebrates libertarianism or licentiousness, and which cannot conceive of any restraint on the individual’s endless rights (forgetting Article 5 of the UDHR which says none of these rights can be used to overthrow any of the other rights).

    With “whim, favoritism, nepotism, or the caprice of those who hold power” — you seem oblivious to the old problem of Bolshevism which is that people purporting to seek the common good, people claiming to be the advance guard of what is the common good, people who claim they are able to identify what is good for people, are able, on a whim, with favouritism, with their pals, and with utter arbitrariness, to do what they feel like doing. This is one of the deepest evils of MMORPegism — the wizards, mentors, wise ones, who are arrogated about the citizenry with special powers which they believe they’re entitled to have by manifest expertise, without any restraint or transparency or accountability.

    In the name of overthrowing the nepotism and favouritism inherent in meat-world institutions like “the White House” or “the U.S. Congress” you’re going to institute something worse, more like “the Politburo” in that it is a group of self-selected caretakers who believe they are altruistic and serve the public — the public that they never really wish to consult (for proof of that, we can see the lists of those at these conferences).

    ># The aim of virtual communities is the common good of its citizenry, from which arise the rights of avatars. Foremost among these rights is the right to be treated as people and not as disembodied, meaningless, soulless puppets. Inherent in this right are therefore the natural and inalienable rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

    Oh dear. Where to begin? The common good again? And who determines that? And whoops, we went from a perfectly good notion of inherent and inaliable rights *within the individual* — that is, existing in the individual first and foremost, as self-evident, as proper, as inalieable — and whoops, we leap-frogged over to conferring this — taking it away from the individual! — to this very vague notion of “the common good” which is now to form the basis, justification, substrate of rights. This is hugely dangerous. It means anyone can come along and pull the rug out from rights. The individual doesn’t have them. I can come along and say, “Joseph Brodsky isn’t a poet, he’s a parasite, he doesn’t contribute to society, banish him” etc. I hope you can see this.

    There’s also some definitional issues with a phrase like “the right to resistance of oppression” — at which point does the body politic stabilize and have checks and balances instead of endless revolutionary resistance, etc.

    >1. I don’t actually care what happens in Second Life except abstractly, and you care deeply. I know full well that I don’t know the details of what is going on in there, and that’s why I wouldn’t step in to support a Prop of any sort. I wouldn’t do that out of ignorance.

    Well, if the inability of a voting system created by geeks not even to have the *right to vote NO on it* doesn’t trouble you, Mr. Avatar Rights Bill Author, and you feel the need to “get more information” then I suppose this is a hopeless situation. Either you understand that every voting system has to have a “yes” *and* a “no” or you’re going to be willing to wait until, through game company insider connections, you get your friend Cory Linden to explain (and I hypothesize) that, say, the reason he didn’t put in the “no” was that he wanted “positive contributions” and “constructive suggestions” and “to reinforce the positive” and “not accentuate the negative” and a 100 other geeky and wierd hippie justifications for disenfranchising the very right to fight opppression you just got done affirming in your own bill of rights. So, that’s ok, but when this thing gets bigger and still has no “no,” I hope you pay attention then.

    >2. As a fellow developer of virtual worlds, I try to stay out of critiques of the administration of other worlds unless it’s something I feel really strongly about. Especially given that given my relative notoriety, even a small comment can be writ large.

    I can understand, but you know, I began to debate you for really one simple reason: you were the only one reported at this conference who was willing to say “there isn’t enough criticism of this stuff”. All the others seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid.

    I guess we who live under the tyranny of the virtual worlds, who live under the lash of oppressive governments, which are the dark side of the brightly-hued game companies that show such a kinder and lighter face to the outside world, have no other choice but to try to speak up and hope our cry is heard by other game companies or game makers or world makers so that they begin to realize how important these issues are to customers/avatars and not keep stepping on them.

    My God, Raph, how can you make a voting machine for the Metaverse, that has no “NO” lever??? My God, how could such a thing happen?

    Let me suggest that such a horrible thing could happen precisely because somebody, somewhere, on the Metaversal Revolutionary Committees, said, “it’s in the interests of the common good for us not to have negativity and criticism on voting machines so we’re not going to have any NO votes”.

    I *hope* you can see how Orwellian this is!

    In general, Raph, I don’t think it’s a good idea in RL or in sim life to have one person or one group issue a proclamation/rights manifesto that is itself a product of an internal process that isn’t a representative government or group consensus itself.

    Putting it up in public and seeking comments is good, but it’s not a substitute for sequencing this in what might be a more effective way, say, by first making civic groups, or “committees of correspondence” or whatever civic movement or umbrella effort gets started, have people discuss the rights they want to affirm and claim, and then work on them in assemblies, congresses, conferences, whatever — the governance structures themselves are what have to help make the document credible.

    Any group of people getting together to discuss this will not readily achieve a unified or harmonious view of what is the “common good” — they’d first have to identify a sense of shared purpose, goals, and create some kind of vehicle/group/IM sessions/whatever to then work on this draft of a rights document.

    >It’s a good post. But I gotta say, knowing Clay, he’d think of YOU as one of those “members” who are “gardening.” By the force of your arguments and your postings, YOU are one of the caretakers of culture in SL.

    Yes, but I’m not a caretaker of the dominant culture at all in fact, by trying to go against the tide and create a wider and more tolerant culture. Caretaker only in a more abstract sense.

    >Heh… FWIW, I don’t actually think that that’s the place to do it. I think it will take a new platform. You don’t actually know whether I am off theorizing fruitlessly right now, or actually doing something, either. :)

    Ok, be mysterious!

    >The thing they have in common is that they are all believers in at least some of the core ideas that SL represents. Otherwise, they wouldn’t BE there.

    To be a disbeliever but to be engaged because of what is at stake isn’t being a believer, and it’s especially not drinking the Kool-Aid. That’s how I’d see myself in this world. I can only believe that it’s important and influential and engage it, I can’t believe in *it* as a project of people with whom I do not share any sense of collective purpose, to the extent to which they’ve revealed it, which is only partially.

    >Here, I think you are minimizing the amount of passion and social development that happens in the game worlds. I think if you reversed your challenge to me, and gave a given game world the same sort of attention you give SL, you’d find that in fact, similar meetings happen, with similar issues of governance, censorship, cliques, and so on.

    Well…I don’t go in all these games, no, but I read the Herald, the Terra Nova, etc. and I have to say, I don’t see this rich robust list you claim. I see the main story coming out of WoW to be the issue of a group that involved the gay rights issue, for example, but not a long list of issues. I see censorship happening on something like MySpace about UTube (or was it the other way around? I forget). Oh, I’m sure they all exist. But I don’t see it as deep and multi-hued. Of course, I’m not in the magic circle of those games.

    I did see these issues come up quite a bit in TSO. And I realize they do in WoW because I have friends and kids who are caught in it. But these worlds don’t accomplish something I think SL is unique in doing: both creating the fourth wall, the proscenium arch, and making it permeable and not noticeable anymore, depending on how you decide to interact or zoom around your camera or perceive it. WoW violates the fourth wall of a TV set or a movie theater or a theater, but once you get inside WoW, you merely hit the next fourth wall of the little game world itself (the fifth wall?). SL both violates or crosses the fourth wall, but then doesn’t set down a new one in front of you, so you can then endlessly make the fifth, sixth, if you will. That’s what’s different.

    >I am trying to think of another way to put this… frankly, I do not have time right now to invest a workweek of time into SL, because I have my own things to do. You’ll just have to judge me by my actions once I can actually put what I say into practice. :)

    Oh, I quite realize that’s a putdown, and you’re busy being the Internet Guru and such, that’s all well understood. And I didn’t imply an entire workweek, but an hour. But it’s just a challenge, it doesn’t have to be accepted.

    >LambdaMOO was not a game. LambdaMOO was, frankly, EXACTLY LIKE SECOND LIFE except in text. It had quotas for building. It had HUGE debates about government. They actually TRIED direct democracy, so maybe they were ahead of SL on that front. They had an “architectural review board” that approved what people would build, which caused a massive stink. They had people so invested in their virtual lives that one guy actually got another FIRED from their RL job over a virtual dispute.

    OK, well, I’ll take your word for it, and I know from books like “My Tiny Life” which I’ve seen referenced and have read the excerpts from, that it is very compelling and very social and intense. I didn’t realize the bit about the RL job but sounds so very SL. OK, you win on that one but…Harvard didn’t go there, Wells Fargo didn’t go there, and Business Week didn’t go there LOL.

    >I’ll pick just one: I am pretty much positive that more teenagers have learned how to run businesses from UO and SWG than have ever LOGGED INTO SL. You’re making your case for exceptionalism on the wrong points here.

    By gold-farming and skilling up levels. It’s really a grind. I think SL is just that much more creative and flexible and cashes out to real money that you can put on PayPal and not hoist out of some gamers’ gold farm exchange.

    >You’re the citizen there. It should be YOUR bill, not mine! FWIW, I’ll cheerfully endorse ANYONE pushing for that doc in ANY game; I always have.

    If you have an avatar there, that’s all that’s required to be a citizen. So you’re one, yourself! Unless you care to qualify yourself as a tourist LOL (a category that Anshe once made about people without any kind of social or technical or financial stake in SL who just hop in to try to free accounts, to everyone’s undying amusement which has cost her griefing ever since).

    You know, I can’t really start up the project of disseminating your bill of rights when I have very fundamental disagreements with their conception, and the manner of their issuance — but then, I’m happy to say I don’t know enough about them, and have to read the history of the discussion of them. Just taking them as a document on the Internet, I think they perpetuate the tyranny of the wizard class that we need to overthrow, by introducing a self-styled foundation for rights within “the common good” rather than within the individual and within the law itself, a higher concept. I could conceive of starting discussion groups around them — but I’d have to *believe in them* to disseminate them.

    I’m thinking SL just isn’t at the stage yet where one person or a group of people sending around lists of rights is going to get any traction — I suggested that what would be required is someone with your stature with a reputation for world creation and so on stepping up to the plate to give it visibility. But it’s not your project. You’re willing to do it on the Internet, but not inside just one of many worlds, I hear you.

  48. Real quick to Morgan’s comment:

    On the future side, I’m a proud graduate of the University of Houston’s MS in Studies of the Future program and definitely have some thoughts on improving collective foresight and moving more proactively into the future. I’ve looked at Drucker, and those are some pretty weak sauce one-liners hehe! ;) Ironically they shut down thought and new ways of looking at things (‘you won’t know! there is no continuity to history! it will be a dark suprise! don’t! it cannot be! do this because it is right! listen to me! i know! i know you don’t know! real leaders do what i say! *cough* buy my book!’ ;). There’s more illuminating stuff than that.

    Two things quick around the Metaverse Roadmap. One is that it’s not a specifically predictive project as much as an inventory of the possibility space around the 3D-enabled Web and the things feeding into it and tying it together. That said, clear schools of thought will emerge around likelihoods of this or that development, and we’re evolving into a Futurepedia model of ongoing public and industry input which will no doubt be its own living prediction market and inventory of creative ideas. Hopefully, with work and refinement here, the model can be applied to other topics.

    Prokofy to Raph > I’m sure you have vastly more experience in virtual worlds, obviously you’re the famous guru and I’m only the infamous antagonist. But I do think you have to think outside the MMORPG gaming box here. This isn’t gold-farming in UO or WoW. This is cashing out to RL money to pay RL bills using skills that aren’t grinding and skilling and questing but are more complex and sophisticated having to do with market determination, problem-solving, community building, legal interpretation, etc. that in my view, require a variety of disciplines and bodies of human knowledge to be brought to bear on it as it develops.

    With you 1,000% on this, Prok. And you too, Raph. And yoo to csven (I have my popcorn as well :). That’s why I thought the roadmap was timely. There is definitely something new afoot, and as happens like clockwork, suprise, people, even the most experienced experts in the industries that are set to melt together and mutate, can’t fully see it (nor should they be expected to all by themselves!).

    Bouncing around a little bit on comments (it’s a sunny Saturday in New York! forgive me for being distracted :)

    Randy Farmer, comment #11 > No one holding conferences and making 10-year plans for the All Audio Web, or the All-encompasing Video Web (which could be cast in your all-inclusive/subsuming reasoning.)

    Sure they do, people host podcasting conferences and do forward market research and projections, and people are clearly looking at the future of video on the Web, looking at falling costs of cameras, memory, mobile devices, how it’s likely to impact TV, journalism, Hollywood etc. This project is about 3D on the internet and the things it touches and that feed into it.

    It would be funny to participate in a project about audio on the Web and have your over-riding statement be, “The entire internet will not be made out of audio!” or “Audio is like yellow!” I mean, you could, but why? :) Take it for what it is.

    Randy > Most folks seem to acknowledge that data formats and display technologies are tools that are fit for specific purposes.

    No! Everything will be 3D! Instead of typing in Word or Open Office you will have to build each letter in a massively multiplayer CAD program while dodging griefers and grinding to earn raw materials! Books will disappear, rather you will go to Barnes & Noble and buy sacks of 3D-printed letters which you will bring home and arrange line by line on your sofa! ;)

    Just saying that, in all honesty, what you’re saying here is obvious, and the most helpful input on this line would be seperating what things you think are better in 2D and what in 3D (and I think you’ll be surprised by how the two end up working together, 2D interface on top of 3D world), not just ending the conversation with a dismissive humph (Prok, speaking to your comment on Tony’s blog, that’s what I mean by constructive). I say that with all due respect and eagerly await your continued input! (Just goading you a bit.) Now I’m off to buy a bike and play in the park :). /zoop!

  49. Ironically they shut down thought and new ways of looking at things …

    The point that Drucker makes is that innovation doesn’t occur by simply thinking or talking about innovation. Innovation occurs by doing what needs to be done to make that future happen. When you’re sitting on the sidelines, or at home watching television, you can’t legitimately claim to be a player on the field.

    The best quotes are short and sweet, especially in light of Prokofy Neva’s extremely lengthy (too lengthy) replies.

    I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough. — Albert Einstein

    We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on. — Richard Feynman

    And just because I thought the following quote relevant to games…

    There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It’s a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you ‘play’ with them! — Richard Feynman

    Keep in mind that Feynman was not a clean speaker, even when talking about physics. Expletives deleted. ;)

  50. >One is that it’s not a specifically predictive project as much as an inventory of the possibility space around the 3D-enabled Web and the things feeding into it and tying it together.

    Oh, bah, SNOOPY, of course a roadmap is predictive. It’s a map, with roads, you drive on. You don’t drive across the cornfields, you drive on the roads, and the map tells you what’s coming up ahead, it doesn’t just describe where you are. Being the first to frame this big thing called the Metaverse, you’re going to shape a lot of the impressions of it and the thinking around it. Of course, there’s every chance you might be ignored, but I don’t think you should be claiming you don’t have a point of view and school of thought of your own, or a predictive and even prescriptive agenda, even under the guise of merely being descriptive. “The medium is the message.”

    Have you ever looked at the maps of the world that people make in *other* countries? For example, the U.S. has the North American continent squarely in the middle of the map. But in Russia, the Eurasian continent is in the middle and North America is this little spindly distorted land mass. Or that famous New Yorker cartoon where “23rd Street” and “Afghanistan” are about the same size. Whoever makes the map gets to take people for a ride.

    >It’s a sunny Saturday in New York! forgive me for being distracted

    SNOOP it’s absolutely POURING BUCKETS of rain. I mean CATS AND DOGS.
    I can’t even *see* the bridge which I can usually see out my window. We live in different worlds! Oh, it was a different time of day! Oh! It was a different borough! Oh! If only I’d GOOGLESLICED IT FIRST!

  51. It’s a map, with roads, you drive on.

    The map is not the territory. You don’t drive on maps… unless you’re frustrated.

  52. Morgan: The point that Drucker makes is that innovation doesn’t occur by simply thinking or talking about innovation. Innovation occurs by doing what needs to be done to make that future happen.

    How do you decide what “needs to be done” (a very subjective thought) without trying to imagine potential events, problems and desired solutions first? The actual future may end up being an unanticipated alchemy of competing solution-attempts and a zillion external factors, but that doesn’t mean the exercise of thinking about the future is a waste of time. Now if all one did is talktalktalk and never DO, then yes, you have a point… but making that assumption about the attendees is a bit silly.

    Speaking about assumptions: The strange thing about the Darfur “exchange” that took place at the event was the presumed sense of arrogance assigned to the creators of the exhibit. I don’t disagree that technologists/futurists often vastly overstate the true ability of technology to reduce human suffering, but any attempt at spreading awareness strikes me as a better alternative to the usual “western” apathy over yet-another-african-crisis. But perhaps Ethan didn’t react so much to the exhibit as to the notion that it would make much of a dent…

  53. Prokofy: Um…so…do the player-owned houses in your other games sell outside the game? Do they change hands in an internal users’ market? Can people sell them and even fund their college education like SL architect Lordfly Digeridoo claims …. Do these sales cash out and pay the actual RL rent?

    I suspect without the very expensive sale of UO property for very real dollars there would be no basis for an experment like Second Life. Can you buy them in game for out of game money? No, and you can’t do that in Second Life either, as I understand it. You have to get it converted somewhere. Many people do however sell for real dollars on exernal users markets, such as eBay. Yes, people have sent their kids to college on what they have made in more traditional MMO games.

    Raphl: I am pretty much positive that more teenagers have learned how to run businesses from UO and SWG than have ever LOGGED INTO SL. You’re making your case for exceptionalism on the wrong points here.

    Prokofy: By gold-farming and skilling up levels. It’s really a grind. I think SL is just that much more creative and flexible and cashes out to real money that you can put on PayPal and not hoist out of some gamers’ gold farm exchange

    You seem to be missing the point, running a business isn’t about how you make the Mcgriffen so much as how you sell it. Standing in Ironforge trying to sell enchants you can learn about customer service, supply and demand, and developing repeat customers.

    Look at it another way: In a traditional MMO game, you make money from killing monsters. In Second Life you make money by creating content (which you then rent or sell), which can be anything from a t-shirt to an escort service to making a place where people can kill monsters. Blizzard hired a bunch of guys to make content, Second Life allowed people to hire others to do so and this is give Anshe Chung a very profitable year. But really, if Blizzard had hired someone out-of-house to make their new expansion, and you found out the lead designer made $150,000 would that suprise you? And other than who creates the content, and the fact that Second Life allows you to trade in-game money for RL money and all the games have that as against the Terms of service, what’s so different here?

  54. … without trying to imagine potential events, problems and desired solutions first?

    Imagination is only so useful in small doses. I’m reasonably certain Jerry Paffendorf, having been formally educated in strategic planning, could enlighten you further regarding visualizing the future (as opposed to imagining the future), determining “what needs to be done” according to that visualization, and setting forth a strategy to progress toward that vision.

    In my experience with business continuity and disaster recovery planning, if I were to imagine “potential events and problems”, I would never get paid. How many disasters can you list in accordance with the definition “a scenario involving the unforeseen interruption of operations”? For a company in southern California, I could prepare them for a tornado or an ice storm, but these events are incredibly unlikely in this region.

    Prior to deciding “what needs to be done”, you need to analyze the current situation and define specific and measurable goals for the future. Then, you simply fill the empty space between now and then with a way to go about doing things to get where you want to go. I’d want to prepare the company for the most likely scenarios such as fire hazards due to a deficiency of fire coverage and power outages due to State power infrastructure instabilities.

    There are several must-read articles on innovation published in Harvard Business Review, and of course, I also highly recommend the definitive book Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers. Generally, innovation is not “an unforeseen interruption of operations”. Innovation is typically planned, cultured, and supported by strategy. I’m sure you’re aware of that.

    … but making that assumption about the attendees is a bit silly.

    I’m not talking about the attendees. I’m talking about the guy here whose combined posts are longer, far more boring, and far less researched than anything available on this website.

  55. Wow, what a debate.

    Leaving everything else aside (as I am not qualified to commen t), it seems to me that the bulk of the subtext dialogue here is “Don’t you summarize me!” vs “In summary…” and I think both approaches are relevant and proper and ought in fact not to resolve without friction, or at all. If the anthropologist were intellectually indistinguishable from his object of study, what’d be the point? Likewise, why have subcultures if there’s nothing there that can’t be intellectualized?

  56. [...] As noted on Clickable Culture, the blogoshphere is buzzing about Second Life. Everyone from Robert Scobble to Adam Curry to Raph Koster is discussing Second Life and the Metaverse. The best part about it is that serious discussion about Virtual Worlds has hit a broader discourse. [...]

  57. Prokofy > Oh, bah, SNOOPY, of course a roadmap is predictive.

    Yes, I mean not one lone prediction, not one single future. Not one ‘this is what it will be.’ But an inventory of ideas and predictions and possibilities, side by side to see the schools of thought, look at the assumptions and expectations. I think that’s the most helpful thing right now.

    Morgan > Keep in mind that Feynman was not a clean speaker, even when talking about physics. Expletives deleted.

    Ah, the Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume 1, chapter 26, Optics: The principle of least time. I’m not a physicist but I used to gobble up everything there I could grasp the shape of and that specifc class has been stuck in my head for years. Funny enough it came up yesterday in the sunshine in the park (one of those light does funny things conversations)…before the rain Prokofy mentioned, which was equally nice.

  58. >I’m not talking about the attendees. I’m talking about the guy here whose combined posts are longer, far more boring, and far less researched than anything available on this website.

    Yes, Morgan, thanks for the grammar fix. And yes, you’re well-read, and yes, you’re a great name-dropper for lots of interesting ideas and people, that sure, we’ve read or recognized, or not read or not recognized, but could someday, but that doesn’t diminish our characters, hmm?. All appreciated. But..could you explain again what is you actually *do* as it relates to VWs? Are they helpful? Oh, and here’s a good one-liner quote for your collection:

    “Although reason is common to all men, most men behave as if they have their own private understanding.” Heroclitus

    >Standing in Ironforge trying to sell enchants you can learn about customer service, supply and demand, and developing repeat customers

    I’m getting the distinct feeling that you’ve played a lot in these other games, but only read about SL or just parachuted in briefly. Sure, in WoW on the market you get to figure out which stuff sells or doesn’t. But it’s nothing like the complexity of RL, and that complexity is more approximated with SL and more amplified, accelerated, and manipulable.

    There are so many variables to change in SL — pricing, location, type of vendor, product style, product type, niche-market, method of advertising, event-driven, RP, etc. etc. Creating groups to manage content sales on land and combining it with events and experiences also adds to the 3-D mix — and the groups are more malleable than WoW guilds that have terribly rote routines built into them from the exigencies of the game itself. I can’t join a horde and go out and kill monsters but then suddenly IM everybody and say couldn’t we have a gay rights parade in June just when they are in the middle of a quest — for all kinds of reasons.

    I think SL just magnifies and multiples the possibilities for learning management and handling creation and customers. I don’t mean to suggest it’s fundamentally different than our old kid’s game of playing store or playing house. But the RL and VW dynamics and complexities added to it constantly change and surprise. There’s nothing like making and selling your own content — the WOW content isn’t your own creation.

    So many interesting things happen. For example, why would it take me til now to think how to remain on a parcel available and learn as much as I can about the people who visit but *don’t* rent, just as I learn from the ones who IM me, rent after self-service, etc. You can check all the variables of word of mouth vs. classified, fly-by, FIND, group IM etc and do exit-polling of refunders but camping a lot and seeing what doesn’t work and how to change it yields yet another set of data. For a professional disaster planner already use to manipulating variables and statistics in models, maybe that’s old news. Except the 3-D interactive quality of it adds so much unpredictability as well as pattern-recognition that I think it will be interesting and important even for a professional modeller.

    >In my experience with business continuity and disaster recovery planning, if I were to imagine “potential events and problems”, I would never get paid.

    Seems like an overly literalist interpretation of what was intended to mean a simple concept of “imagine possible scenarios.” Nobody got paid to imagine 9/11/01. Imagine the unimagineable!

    >an inventory of ideas and predictions and possibilities, side by side to see the schools of thought, look at the assumptions and expectations.

    Jerry, back to my first point, which is the 69 folks you got together for this creation of roads and forks and junctions are going to generate something pretty predictable, and you need to have more of the type of those envisioning ‘the road less traveled by…that has made all the difference.’

    >No, and you can’t do that in Second Life either, as I understand it. You have to get it converted somewhere. Many people do however sell for real dollars on exernal users markets, such as eBay. Yes, people have sent their kids to college on what they have made in more traditional MMO games.

    Rik, this is incorrect information. Many landlords, including myself, take PayPal directly in USD for land inside Second Life, there is no currency exchange involved. Some even take credit cards. The exchange of Lindens on the LindEX or other currency exchanges work fine, and transfer to Paypal, credit card, or check. Furthermore, I’ll suggest that you wouldn’t have as many as 2,000 people making substantial livings to cover all their RL bills in SL, and many thousands more making a part-time living, and even teens earning $50 USD a week in content sales, in any other VW setting.

    *They took the game out of the game, and made it more fun to play.*

    It’s not at all to be exaggerated, but the velocity and volume involved is worth noting.

  59. Prokofy > and you need to have more of the type of those envisioning ‘the road less traveled by…that has made all the difference.’

    Couldn’t agree more. Doubt not that you are an influence.

  60. Jerry wrote: Couldn’t agree more [with Robert Frost].

    Are less travelled roads less travelled due to the history of conflict, danger, and death associated with travelling such roads? Are such roads less travelled due to the quality of the destinations? Or are such roads simply less travelled because newer, well-lit, and maintained roads are available? Simply put: only a fool from the suburbs would dare walk down a dark alley in the slums of a metropolis… unless that fool has martial arts expertise, futuristic weaponry, the ability to fly, and a scary mask.

    Figurative idealism only goes so far…

  61. >unless that fool has martial arts expertise, futuristic weaponry, the ability to fly, and a scary mask

    We have all those things and more in Second Life.

  62. Well, I stop answering for a few days and a whole bunch of new folks show up to argue. :)

    Rather than do the whole “quote and pick apart” thing, I want to take a step back. It might even merit a post of its own.

    First, on the Declaration — Prokofy, a fair amount of the language you are picking on, such as “common good,” is actually lifted directly from the documents I was imitating. I agree with you that what exactly “common good” means is a problem, and further, that it is typically a problem resolved by law. Law comes after such a basic declaration as this, IMHO. Usually, we build our virtual euivalent to laws without a philosophical premise to start with; this document attempted to provide such a premise.

    I don’t think the issue of “privileged avatars” as is going to get resolved anytime too soon. Even with a peer-to-peer system such as OpenCroquet, there’s privileged users on a per space basis. While I agree with you on all the tensions inherent in that basic setup, I also don’t see an easy way out yet. The issues are exacerbated by the current server-centric setup used by all the current games.

    FWIW, I have indeed spent multiple hours incognito in SL. I haven’t devoted the amount of time to it that I have to other worlds, though. I haven’t tried running business — I was failing just to make a decent avatar. :) I also do have a custom avatar with my real name, but I have spent virtually no time with it. On the celebrity thing, I was also responding there to your suggestion of hanging out and building an in-world business as myself. Yuck. :)

    There are forms of voting that don’t use “No” btw, such as approval voting. Again, I simply don’t know enough about what the issue is there to be able to comment on what SL is doing.

    One overarching trend I see in the responses from Prokofy but also in other threads regarding all this, is the assumption that the “game” worlds are somehow less relevant or important. As Prokofy stated,

    They took the game out of the game, and made it more fun to play.

    I personally believe this is a mistaken take on things. I’ll be bold and say:

    - no, it’s demonstrably less fun, to the vast majority of people, in SL than in most any of the gameworlds
    - the gameworlds have historically been what has driven adoption in virtual spaces
    - the gameworlds have historically been what has driven lasting innovation
    - the future of the metaverse is going to come from gameworlds, not freeform social worlds

    Part and parcel of this is the dismissal of virtual businesses simply because they aren’t hooked up via PayPal in world. I think there’s a good case to be made that the lack of instant verification tools like PayPal actually leads to more interesting social structures and economic epiphenomena.

    I don’t want to overstate this, but in short, I’d issue a plea to folks like Prokofy, Jerry, and others, to let go of social world exceptionalism.

  63. (Just cutting and pasting some, his full text is just above to refer to.)

    I’m getting the distinct feeling that you’ve played a lot in these other games, but only read about SL or just parachuted in briefly. Sure, in WoW on the market you get to figure out which stuff sells or doesn’t. But it’s nothing like the complexity of RL, and that complexity is more approximated with SL and more amplified, accelerated, and manipulable.

    Trying to undermine my authority? No need. Playing the beta of TSO is as close as I’ve come to logging into Second Life. Well, that and listening to my wife talk about PernMUSH. Otherwise, yes, my online time has been spent elsewhere. Mostly the traditional places, but I’ve also spend some good times in ATITD. As for your next point, that running a business in Second Life is closer to running a business in RL, I’d agree. After all, running a business in Second Life is running a business RL, and for that reason it’s not a good learning environment. James Paul Gee talks about the “Psychological Moroatorium” Principal, where learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered. The works if the stakes are fake gold, and making a sale means you can get a pretend sword. It doesn’t work if making a sale means getting real dollars, losing a sale means losing real dollars, and that someone else might miss a RL rent payment because you did create a better virtual mousetrap. Further the more variables and the competition from professionals do not make it an easy environment to experiment in, and experimenting is key to active learning.

    Yes, guilds in WoW tend to center around playing the game. Yes groups in Second Life don’t, that’s because there is no central game, so they are what some would call diverse and what others might call chaotic. But people do get on their Teamspeak and suggest a parade, and parades do happen in Ironforge from time to time, and if you want to call the parades in Second Life content and the ones in WoW not, I can see the point. But I would hold that the PVP and RP servers have tons of player-created content, from random acts of violence to weddings. It’s not the same as being able to take a screen shot and saying “Everything you see here was created by a player.” But I’d have to ask, are they players or subcontractors?

    Furthermore, I’ll suggest that you wouldn’t have as many as 2,000 people making substantial livings to cover all their RL bills in SL, and many thousands more making a part-time living, and even teens earning $50 USD a week in content sales, in any other VW setting.

    Again, this is another “look at these number, that much cash must be important.” Compare it to the number of accounts Blizzard has closed for gold farming, and see if they still look large. “Ah,” counters my virtual-strawman, “that’s why the word Substantial was used.” Bah, overseas cheap labor will take away those jobs as soon as the market is ripe for them to do so, if they haven’t already.

  64. Out of curiosity, Prokofy, what are your credentials? No one seems qualified to talk negatively about SL because they haven’t actually done it. I’m therefore curious which of the gameworlds you’ve participated heavily in, and if you’ve done anything noteworthy, like manage a raid or done guild leadership or trained to level 60 or 70 or 100 or whatever it is now.

    And for the record, I have no credentials. I began playing Dragonrealms in 7th grade and I haven’t played any of the fancy graphical shindigs, except touching in SL because it was free… and all I did there was enjoy the scenery, mess around in the sandboxes, and show it off to other people. I’ve got a t-shirt. And I think I have a jacket. And this sweet jet that I can’t figure out for the life of me how to use…

  65. >Prokofy, a fair amount of the language you are picking on, such as “common good,” is actually lifted directly from the documents I was imitating.

    Raph, actually you’re wrong about any “lifting of language” at least when it comes to the UN documents. Indeed, even where you might be “lifting” you’re quoting out of context and without heed of my other point of how such such documents come about — in a multilateral context with pre-existing institution, procedures, shared goals, compromises, etc.

    I actually know a good deal about this subject, but don’t wish to cite that here. While this is going to take a while to explain, if you’re serious about pushing your avatar rights, and you’re actually believing (mistakenly) “based them on international rithts documents,” I’ll have to disagree vehemently with you. If you take but a cursory look at UDHR, for example, which is the basis for many other international rights documents you’ll discover there isn’t any phrase or notion called “the common good” as any kind of central organizing principle of rights themselves* — and thank God for it!

    Rather, “advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people” — but the rights themselves are inherent and are not housed in a putative “common good” concept.

    You’ll see that far from housing the notion of human rights in “the collective good” — making a hortatory, undefined, and illusory “common good” as the foundation for rights — this Declaration does something very, very different.

    Like the U.S. Constitution says “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator” — signifying that each and every *person as an individual* is endowed by something higher — imbued with rights from on high — so the UDHR says preamble recognizes:

    “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”

    It doesn’t *start” with any hazy notion of the “common good” — it starts with the inherent dignity of every single individual human being.

    This is a very, very important distinction and understanding to get right before embarking on entire exercises in drafting manifestos, laws, virtual worlds. If you don’t get it right, you will privilege the group-think and their advance-garde wizards every time, and enable them to stomp on the individual avatar, and wind up calling him a “troll” if he persists in fighting for his freedom against you.

    The reason I’m even bothering on obsessing with this now is precisely because of the coming revolution of groups through social software and the accompanying overhyping of groups uber alles as some kind of defining principle in society, that will obliterate indiviuals AND the state and its protection of individuals. This is very bad stuff.

    I won’t belabour the points, but just look at the language in the document, really:

    “the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”

    In the dignity and worth of the human person — even in a non-religious setting like the UN, what you see here is *faith in something higher, faith in fundamental human rights, faith in the dignity and worth of the individual — and not the collective*.

    The common good might be the *result* of the implementation of these rights. Yet these good people who hammered out the UDHR did not start with the premise of “common good” nor claim to identify it. They identified something higher in which they had faith — the rights themselves.

    This “natural rights” belief often runs counter to the geeky, nihilist stuff you find all over the Internet these days overthrowing God, religion, the state, politicians all these people doing things by “remote control” as Stewart Brand said in the Whole Earth Catalogue, who must be rejected in favour of the immediacy of “direct democracy” (which, as we’ve seen in SL, is coded by geeks deftly to leave out the NO vote).

    Yes, there’s “approval voting,” and it’s pretty insidious stuff in a context where there is no normal, transparent democracy, and not even the two other branches of government for checks and balances, but a very overambitious and overreaching executive branch (the game company).

    Everyone is social-engineered into ‘approval’. Nobody can ‘disapprove’ because, why, it’s the “approval” mechanism, and why, we just find that just so much more fun and positive than that old “no” vote! Game devs get to think their game fans are all wild about point-to-point teleportation, for example, because a dom and his subs on the Gorean sims are able to rally hundreds of flash-mob votes. Nobody can show that there might be some backwash from such a policy (destruction of business, the grey squares from poor texture loading, the 128/128 sim landing lottery, etc.) Nary a discouraging word is every heard.

    I suppose if *even you* find it sucky trying to make an avatar in SL, gosh, they really need to work on that interface stuff better. I guess I just skipped over that stuff as too tedious and hard. I never learned to use the gestures, my avatar just is in his library suit most of the time and even store-bought prim hair is a stretch. A lot of the depth of the game for people comes in fixing up avatars with not only the library sliders but the customized stuff and aquiring and deploying literally hundreds of wierd animation overrides — imagine someone going to the trouble to make “brushes hair nervously off forehead” as an avatar animation — seems like you could have left that one behind in RL lol.

    When I say the Lindens “took the game out of the game,” I mean they took the idiocy of the routines, the talking to the NPCs, the beating the bosses. I dunno about you, but I get damn sick of hearing those swords clash all weekend long out of WoW from my kids and their friends playing it, and listening to that cheezy Hollywood-hero-upsurge orchestral music lol.

    What happens is they all burn through these games and tire of them, they never go beyond — they burn through the content and the game devs have to think up new gifts or shards or bells or whistles. Sl seems so different because you can keep pushing at the outer issues yourself without having to prod game devs. In fact, to the extent the SL experience still has so much of that “let’s push the game devs or suck up to game devs and get what we want” quality to it, it’s a game, and not a more interesting world. I finally made a closeable box with a lid and a hinge and a door script today — it’s a little feeling of accomplishment that getting “10″ on my “cooking” skills in TOS never gave me (mainly because the box-lid thing sticks and enhances, whereas the skill-ups were always degrading with time passage).

    Of course, there’s still way too much game in SL, and I blog about that all the time, what with this hippie dope-smoking circle-jerk of a group tool set they have that idiotically distributes all group income and expenses to all members of the group (they’re slated to reform this).

    Still, I can only figure there is a considerable fork here in the discussion where I guess people will just have to agree to disagree:

    >- no, it’s demonstrably less fun, to the vast majority of people, in SL than in most any of the gameworlds

    Not everybody needs or wants a second life. Some people want a game. I find I can’t sit still for any game any more, even the ones inside of SL, they make me feel like one of those caged animals at the zoo running through one of its instinctive predictable routines typical of captivity. Rather, I want to be *doing something* and in SL, you get that feeling of accomplishment. Perhaps I’ll conclude it’s illusory — cocaine can make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, too. But it seems so, now.

    I agree that there’s a lot frustrating, and not so much “fun” in SL. I think like TSO and a few other more social-y householder games, SL will be fun for very different non-geeky kinds of people, and that’s why I think geeks need to pay attention to it more because it will take off without you.

    >- the gameworlds have historically been what has driven adoption in virtual spaces

    I blink at this in disbelief, simply looking at this world of yours from a very different place. Sure, driven adoption of virtual spaces — but virtual spaces in games. Sure, WoW took further whatever UO or SWG — is that your point? (Do you lie away gnashing your teeth over this?) But…so? The fans will burn through that content, the world will be hollowed out, and in 2-3 years, players will be “playing in the puddle of our former game,” as one person once explained to me about their experience in a shooter game ruined by cheat hackers. It got like that with TSO, when they made those dumb milkshakes, and all of a sudden everybody in SimArts headed for the hills — of SL, like a stampede.

    But…the innovation of virtual worlds outside of games — and games are still controlled spaces with fourth walls intact, remember? — that will happen in SL and things like SL if they appear, or RL thingies like Google Earth that will hook up to them. (I really hate saying this cutesy new buzz term “mash up” because frankly, I think a little more care should be exercised in splicing stuff together than it seems they’re implying with all this mashing.)

    >- the gameworlds have historically been what has driven lasting innovation

    Well, what if they lose their edge, Raph? If anything, maybe some of this “lasting innovation” has to be thrown overboard. This insidious levelling and skilling and wizarding stuff hard-wired into every “game” is pretty awful stuff for a template of a civilization that actually has to have people really live in it for any serious length of time for any serious enterprise.

    I personally don’t want to guild-bond with other people dressed in Medieval attire, finding it fascinating to skill-grind and kill monsters, and I don’t want to be in an apprentice system of “create or die” or “skill or be killed”. The social Darwinism and Dark Ages type practices of these games and virtual worlds aren’t at all attractive to the layman outside this world, and people are just going to walk around the robots to get where they need to get using virtual worlds, without all that drek.

    I’d have to understand a lot more about what you mean by “innovations” and see the list of evolutionary progression of games from the age of survival to the age of heros and the Iron age and so on, you know, PacMan emerges and just eats the dots, Dig-Dug kills the evil thingies…UO finds and hordes the red hair dye…Sims Online washes the hair in the shower…SL creates each prim strand of hair — I just don’t know enough about these games to see what you’d identify as evolutionary progress, and I bet I’d disagree with it anyway.

    >- the future of the metaverse is going to come from gameworlds, not freeform social worlds

    Totally wrong. At a certain point the gameworlds are so hobbled by conventions and foolish consistencies that the social worlds will be the only place where innovation can happen because people will have the hook and pulley of monetarization of their time on line and aquiring of skills that translate to greater being-satisfaction and financial satisfaction. Also, don’t forget that the sex is just so much better in the social worlds! I don’t know how those ugly hordes manage to get it on in a place like WoW especially with all that armour on!

    These game devs with the shooter and sandboxy games will be noodling around in those game worlds and they’re going to get a lot prettier and run faster and such, but then suddenly the Metaverse will come up and bite them on the ass!

    By then LL Bean will have try-before-you-buy avatars and catalogue clothing in 3-D and Citibank will have visual representations of your CD’s maturity and expected social security income upon retirement and you’ll actually be able to see a visual time-lapsing colour-coded representation of the lettuce at the D’Agostino’s as you shop online so you can actually tell which ones are fresher! By then RL will have gotten to be so virtual worldy that fooling around in a game gutting an orc for gold will seem like a PacMan — each one of these well-resourced huge entities like an Enron with staff and money to burn on this stuff will have games-within-games and prizes galores. You’re not going to want the helm from Runescape anymore or the precious metal out of WoW when your gas station has ore objects in its 3-D Gold Rush game you play on a console while you wait on line in RL, which is complexly networked to your telephone company’s quest, so that you save up the ores like coupons to get a discount on the gas later or trade it for cell-phone minutes. It’s just going to be everywhere.

    >I think there’s a good case to be made that the lack of instant verification tools like PayPal actually leads to more interesting social structures and economic epiphenomena.

    Oh dear, you’re reaching on that one, Raph! If you have to start that old “interesting social structures” routine as a placebo for the inherent satisfaction in the age-old human activity of buying and selling in the marketplace, well….Ermmm…even losing money in Second Life, the wisdom you acquire is priceless. Oh, come on, nobody REALLY fines interesting the economic epiphenomena of the price of ore in Project Entropia…unless it REALLY can be cashed out by lots more people!

    I’d be happy to let go of social world exceptionalism if I could see any actual affect on the RL culture and events of the outside world by these masses of game players. That is, not the epiphenomena of magazine articles and talk shows saying everybody’s in a game killing orcs, but the actual impact of gaming on something besides just a chat at the water cooler that’s merely updated baseball scores with horde skills.

    With Second Life, there’s no more water cooler, and no more scores-talking, because your entire life changed, presumably, in the way you combined the real and the virtual. I don’t want to overstate this, and I think it won’t be an all or nothing proposition. Games draw masses and the pay is high there for the devs, so the mechanics and engineering developments may necessarily happen in game-games — but social worlds are where people are going to be well, social, so they’re going to be where the rest of us are, and are going to be just a lot more philosophically important. That’s why I think these issues like “no no vote” are terribly important to bother with now.

  66. Rik, re: >Further the more variables and the competition from professionals do not make it an easy environment to experiment in, and experimenting is key to active learning.

    First, as to risk, the existence of the ratio of US dollars to Linden dollars ($3.30/1000) and the micropayments mean that the risk when starting out is not great and the capacity to go slower while you learn is there. You’re absolutely right that the competition between amateurs and professionals which is just starting to heat up now is creating a great deal of friction, and may destroy the world for many. I disagree that the scope for experimenting and failing isn’t there — it surely is because of the sliding scale of amateur to professional still very much available.

    I still think you’re really reaching by trying to equate standing in “Iron Forge” waiting around for stuff to sell and socializing with other buyers in this highly controlled game world is anything like the real-time more real-world-like buying and selling of SL.

    I agree that the creation of non-inventoriable content, as I call it, like events (weddings, parades, pageants) or communities or relationships or good public debates is just as important as making inventoriable content, and maybe more so. SL offers a whole order of complexity and variability higher than just some Medieval-guild-culture-based activity such as you are describing. The breadth and depth of the cultures and sub-communities is greater.

    I think really, there’s a basic disconnect here because you’re seeing the prism of SL through these other games where frankly, the activity is simply more primitive, whatever it’s improved graphic representation or interface compared to SL.

    It isn’t that LL “let Anshe” hire other people — hiring people became possibly because she could reach a point where she could begin to value her own previously unbilled hours enough and also make enough money to pay others who required non-Western wages (they are mainly in China or poorer European countries than Germany, where she is located). And I’d suggest that Anshe creating complex communities with themes and infrastructure and activities and content, interacting with hundreds of others also creating and adjusting to each other and recreating, is a far more complex activity as a social phenomenon than just Blizzard hiring a new game dev who makes a new kewl realm thingie that nets them the equivalent of the $150,000 per year. What’s going to grow, and be more sustainable? Hundreds of people all making self-supporting content-creation communities in a social-world setting increasingly interacting with other social worlds on other platforms? Or one company making a static and enclosed world with a limited repetoire of inventory?

    Mikhail, re “credentials,” I fail to see why I’d have to have skill-level 60 in some kill-em and strip-em game dressed up in medieval armour in order to arrange my life and work in this century with the exploding new technology available for new media. Huh? Are you serious? I’m acquiring experience not in managing gerbil-in-cage-like raids along set paths with a set list of functions and predictable NPC characters, but organizing raids into new territories like actual new markets with real people in them who I don’t want to kill and strip of their gold, but who I want to keep as my customers for a long time to come. What sort of life skill is killing an orc going to set up for me? Make me that much more aggressive in a corporate takeover or something?

    My experience of the game worlds comes from reading and from mediation from others, and I see it as a culture permeating not only every warp and woof we have in Second Life itself, but permeating every warp and woof about every discussion we’re having about virtuality. At some point, somebody has to throw this MMORPG baggage overboard, it’s a hindrance.

    I suppose you feeling bereft with only a jacket and a jet-ski in SL is something like my utter boredom at opening up some game screen for the first time (I do try a lot of them for at least a little while) and be subjected to having to master yet another raft of arcane lore written in fake Hollywood breathless prose. At least in the Sims, you didn’t have to master all this crap about being Lord and Master of All I Survey with the 11th Helm and the Sword of Auror blah blah — you just had to get to the bathroom on time and be sure to eat that rather predictable hash on the plate before bending over your preserve stove.

  67. Rather, I want to be *doing something* and in SL, you get that feeling of accomplishment.

    Other than making money, and sculpting the lifestyle (that’s making laws and talking with others about what other people whould be doing), what is it that you do in SL that you enjoy? Not why is it important, I accept that it’s the first graphic game to use this business model and that it has unlimited potental because anyone could create content for it, but why do you log in? What’s fun?

  68. [...] Given how often the amateur versus expert issue raises itself in relation to Second Life — whether in terms of content creation, medical research, game creation, etc — it seems somehow appropriate to watch Raph and Perkofy slug it out over on Raph’s blog. In the blue corner we have Raph Koster, till recently SOE’s Chief Creative Office and Big Thinker ™ on Virtual Worlds. In the red corner, Perkofy Neva, undisputed heavywieght champion of extended posts, big thoughts on Second Life, and continuous challenges to authority. Go read it — it’s interesting. [...]

  69. Rik wrote: … but why do you log in? What’s fun?

    Do games need to be fun?

  70. [...] There’s a terrorist on Raph’s blog commenting on Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit. He’s not really a terrorist; he’s a Second Life brand champion, but he scares me still. Anyone else want to leap into the fray? Raph’s blog is a virtual world experiment. You can either rush to his defense, join the opposition, or post saucy remarks like me. Sadly, there is no "phat lewt" to be gained. There’s only the satisfaction of participation._________________Morgan Ramsay [...]

  71. Wow, you could almost cut and paste Prokofky’s diatribes into a book and call it “A Theory of No-Fun” by Prokofy Neva of the MetaverseWatch.

    Poor Ralph…never even saw it coming;-)

  72. Prok writes “but organizing raids into new territories like actual new markets with real people in them who I don’t want to kill and strip of their gold, but who I want to keep as my customers for a long time to come.”

    ahem…well, actually, prok dearest…I tried you out a couple of times as an SL service provider and I’m afraid to say I found your QOS rather lacking. Ernest, but just not up to scratch…despite your “extensive experience” with “hundreds of loyal customers”. But damn, girl, you sure can talk up a storm!

  73. Just two quick things:

    Prok, wrong document! I DIDN’T use the UN one, I used older sources: the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. That was one of the critiques leveled against the Declaration, actually.

    As far as the social world exceptionalism thing, I think that’s a big enough topic that it merits its own blog entry, which I’ll try to do today.

  74. The problem with Second Life, Prokofy, and the reason it will ultimately fail horribly, is one of polarization.

    Pure Chaos is exactly as sterile as the Pure Order of WoW where nothing ever changes. The unlimited freedom to create anything stymies many when there is no application for those creations.

    Nothing’s fun unless it’s restricted. Unlimited ice-cream makes you puke.

    Without writing an essay comparable to some of those above, i think that’s all i have to add ;)

  75. [...] I therefore assume (perhaps mistakenly) that the impetus for this post actually comes from the extended discussion with Prokofy Neva over on my blog, and most specifically the comments that you referenced in your own blog post yesterday. [...]

  76. Raph,

    The Bill of Rights recognizes the inherent dignity of man and that speaks to the rights of the individual vs. the collective before anything else, and also a higher notion of rights and law, not “the common good”.

    As for the Declaration of the Rights of Man, well, hmm, this is such a long discussion that I don’t even want to “go there”. I’m not sure of what you are referencing as a critique, and which Declaration you meant, but I think if you’re going to posit notions of common good or the collective or the group’s will or whatever that are above the individual, and above rights themselves as an abstract entity, a source, then you’re on a quick trip to models for totalitarianism. That’s why all those collective-good utopias never worked. They always stepped on the individual, who was always being told was good for him and then being killed if he didn’t get in line. And/or they were outside the law — there was no rule of law above this “collective good” to bring accountability to it.

    Cael, I agree there is polarization in SL, but its polarization about all kinds of things, and cross-polarization, whether about wealth, class, culture, etc. that it makes it interesting. I agree that the unlimited freedom to create doesn’t prevent griefing and create civilization automatically, as Philip Linden seemed to think in his interview with the Herald in June 2004, but there’s enough application of these creations, and enough frictions with problems to solve all the time that it stays complex and interesting.

    The unlimited ice cream comes from the milkshakes in TSO or something. The endlessly zillion flavours of icecream aren’t a bore in SL because you don’t pursue them to the puke stage, you make some other thing or do some other thing, and there is always the FPS shortage to solve. Who decides who gets to own the FPS? Who owns the view? etc. There’s enough of a matrix that it always changes and always remains compelling. Though as I said perhaps the pattern will emerge for me in a year or two and it will get dull. Hasn’t yet.

  77. Much of the stuff swirling around in this thread was echoed for me by Kathy Sierra’s recent blog post. Ironically, I think that what she describes probably applies to both sides in the debate!

  78. Second Life Kitchen, Real Life Cooking

    The kitchen I designed in Second Life last summer now exists in real life. I did most of the work before I went to the Austin Game Conference, but we had to move our 500 plus CDs out of the

  79. ooo….popcorn time again!

  80. I didn’t ask what life skills it would set up for you; I wanted to know what games you’ve played such that you can deride them so easily. Seems the people who have played don’t have the same kind of attitude towards them; I don’t know, maybe they’re all stupid and unworthy of you?

    Sorry. You know everything about me, and I know nothing of your awesomeness. I’ll go on evangelizing Second Life despite feeling so desperately and pathetically empty next to your tremendous success and perfectly real perspective on all things virtual.

  81. Michael, it’s not about derision, but just bewilderment. Why would I want to dress up like a knight or an orc and go be stuck in the middle ages swinging my sword around for a limited, rote set of functions that go nowhere? It’s just not interesting. I’ve played enough of them to get the idea, and had kids and relatives and friends I’ve watch play intensively and I keep up on the thinky literature when I can. I dunno, maybe this summer I might have some time to go skill up somewhere. I’m not getting what the rest of your insults are about, they don’t seem pertinent to the discussion.

  82. >was echoed for me by Kathy Sierra’s recent blog post. Ironically, I think that what she describes probably applies to both sides in the debate!

    Raph, I suppose somedays you drink the Kool-Aid, sometimes you don’t, depends on the flavour. I like to think I’m constantly drinking Diet Coke and upsetting the Kool-Aid stand but I suppose Kool-Aid drinking can be insidious when you’re thirsty. Probably the challenge here is to conceive of why you invented this fork of “either game or social”. That question could really only spring from your own particular niche in the Metaverse, I think most people will have a sampling of both kinds of virtual worlds and then the killer app will be the thingie that moves them seamlessly between game and social and work, etc. — not just showing what shard you are on in WoW and what level, etc. but whether you are the cell phone or email or browsing. I personally would like to know just how many windows everybody has open when I deal with them and how distracted they are.

  83. >I tried you out a couple of times as an SL service provider and I’m afraid to say I found your QOS rather lacking. Ernest, but just not up to scratch…despite your “extensive experience” with “hundreds of loyal customers”.

    Shrugs. Most of the rentals are filled right now, I dunno, must be doing something right. I think when you hide behind a nick and can’t face the music as who you are in SL on public blogs, your motives will be seen as suspect, especially given your track record over at the Herald and my blog. If you go to “test somebody’s QOS” in a belligerent manner in a virtual world, might could be they see through the crap and move on : )

  84. Oh God, I didn’t invent that distinction. It’s just been there for years and years. Nor does it only spring from my niche — there used to be huge terminology wars over MUD versus MUSH and MOO. The most ferocious defenders of “the difference” tended to be the social game folks, the MOOers, who regularly made the case that they were special and engaging in something new and different, while many tried to keep the term MUD applied to all the variant codebases, since they were clearly all variations on a theme and all descended from MUD.

    I agree that the killer app (as I mentioned in the other post) subsumes the distinctions.

  85. Let’s stay away from flame wars please. Debates over one user’s QoS to another user in a game I don’t run are more than a little off topic.

  86. Raph, I realize that you didn’t invent that distinction. But are you still invoking it as if it matters? I wasn’t in on the terminology wars of MUD vs. MUSH vs. MOO but I’m going to accept that they are like the raging terminology wars of SL vs. RL or SL in RL or world vs. platform, i.e. is it a world, is it a platform, it is just a thingie, etc.

    BUT, and I know this seems obvious, all those M thingies of yours weren’t streaming, in 3-D. And you had to write OOC to get out of character, and getting out of character was discouraged. In SL, you don’t have to get out of character, you can get in or out on any sliding scale you want, the whole out-of/in-character distinction melts away. Now, isn’t that great? Isn’t that freedom? If you were going to be fussy about that and say OOC ruins the game, well, there’s now kids on it so it evolves faster, and I hear them laugh and say there are all these RP dweebs talking like Harry Potter and wearing tights, and they laugh ironically, and then they go play the RP server with an ironic twist, see, i.e. their sarcastic riff on the RPs is a new form of RP itself.

    When OOC is negotiable, you don’t have a world with boundaries but worlds or a mere variant of life itself. It’s funny to me to even have to argue against worlds, because in the SL context, I’m definitely a worlder (treating SL as a country) vs. a platformist (treating SL as a platform to use). In fact, that about sums up the range. Some people say they “use” SL (this is the proper term in the Lindens’ Newspeak I’d encourage everyone to use, i.e. “How long have you been using Second Life?” (like it’s a drug, or just an OS). Others say they “play” SL. Still other say they “live SL”.

    You know, I got into this long debate at SOP II with Richard Bartle about whether the text-based worlds were more worldy and more immersive and thoroughly transformative, and whether you become the character way more than you do in SL. I couldn’t see how he could possibly claim that, text is text, 3-D is 3-D, come on. He was absolutely adamant that your avatar in SL is always going to be something separate from you, a toon, as you know, he says that text is far more sexy, etc. You’ve no doubt heard all those arguments.

    I tried to argue it up and down with him. It seems so obvious to me you put the avatar on like a glove. It’s not a toon. Of course it’s a world, and of course you’re in it to the hilt.You’re trying to make a claim for more immersiveness here, too, saying that a) games-within-walls have a greater hold over people and are more worldy and b) therefore more masses come and c) they will be more lucrative VC ventures and therefore d) more cutting-edge technology to advance the whole enchilada. Well, why? I can only keep coming back to the idea that when you are *making the world as you go along, by yourself and in concert with others it is a hell of a lot more immersive*. People pay for that experience, and they pay for using that experience to make money themselves. I think you leverage something quite a great deal more when you harness that creative impulse, especially if you make sure that people get that “hit” not just for making the number one top fashionable dress featured in Business Week or something, but if you can make your little pair of sim sandals which then sell for $150, it’s a great feeling.

  87. >>Let’s stay away from flame wars please. Debates over one user’s QoS to another user in a game I don’t run are more than a little off topic.

    Agreed, Ralph, but I was actually making a roundabout point based on a response from Pork.

    >>If you go to “test somebody’s QOS” in a belligerent manner in a virtual world

    Actually, they were completely non-belligerant and done in good faith looking for a specific service. It worked..to a point, but I made a commercial decision to move on, find a better service…problem solved for me, on a number of levels as a matter of risk management.

    >>Most of the rentals are filled right now, I dunno, must be doing something right.

    mmm…in the wider context of endelessly rolling out Ansche and yourself as examples of virtual worlds Best Practices, you might just want to rethink your position as a “successful” virtual land baron giving you the street cred to be Vigilante Gal for the Meterverse Justice watch, zooming around the blogosphere in your blue rinse, red cape and “Hammer & Sickle” aimee weebler undies fighting perceived virtual injustice wherever it may lie.

    Your “success”, as may well be for many early adapters(? sic!) , could just as much due to luck, timing, laws of supply and demand, etc etc as it is to any actual skill in running a virtual business.

    Try reading http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/ for some more perspective as to what may be some of the reasons behind your virtual “success”. As one reviewer says on Amazon “fun to read, highly original though very very arrogant” so it should be right up your alley!

  88. BUT, and I know this seems obvious, all those M thingies of yours weren’t streaming,

    Technically, they were streaming, actually. :)

    in 3-D.

    Actually, those weren’t, but several of the examples I listed, such as OnLive and Alphaworld, were in fact streaming 3d user-built worlds.

    And you had to write OOC to get out of character, and getting out of character was discouraged.

    This is a rather large misapprehension. Some worlds were that way, some weren’t (the majority, in fact).

    In SL, you don’t have to get out of character, you can get in or out on any sliding scale you want, the whole out-of/in-character distinction melts away. Now, isn’t that great? Isn’t that freedom?

    This was and is common on all the MOO like worlds and all the talker style worlds. RP tends to exist only in the middle segment of the spectrum.

    You know, I got into this long debate at SOP II with Richard Bartle about whether the text-based worlds were more worldy and more immersive and thoroughly transformative, and whether you become the character way more than you do in SL. I couldn’t see how he could possibly claim that, text is text, 3-D is 3-D, come on. He was absolutely adamant that your avatar in SL is always going to be something separate from you, a toon, as you know, he says that text is far more sexy, etc. You’ve no doubt heard all those arguments.

    Yeah, and there’s no point in rehashing them. Text IS better at some things, and 3d IS better at others. Some research shows that women prefer 1st person, some other data shows they prefer 3rd person, some other shows they prefer text. What it boils down to is that the display method is not a limit on the serverside simulation, as I have written before. 3d is not suddenly a magical new thing, either; as I have mentioned already, there have been 3d worlds with user content creation and scripting before.

    It seems so obvious to me you put the avatar on like a glove.

    I always use the analogy of a mask, myself.

    You’re trying to make a claim for more immersiveness here, too, saying that a) games-within-walls have a greater hold over people and are more worldy

    No, I said they were more entertaining. Entertainment generally rests on giving the entertainer control.

    and b) therefore more masses come and c) they will be more lucrative VC ventures and therefore d) more cutting-edge technology to advance the whole enchilada. Well, why?

    Because it does take money to make these environments — isn’t Linden up to over $40m raised at this point?

    The capital isn’t the objective, mind you, it’s the enabling means to the end.

    I can only keep coming back to the idea that when you are *making the world as you go along, by yourself and in concert with others it is a hell of a lot more immersive*. People pay for that experience, and they pay for using that experience to make money themselves. I think you leverage something quite a great deal more when you harness that creative impulse, especially if you make sure that people get that “hit” not just for making the number one top fashionable dress featured in Business Week or something, but if you can make your little pair of sim sandals which then sell for $150, it’s a great feeling.

    All I am trying to tell you is, I completely agree with you personally. But I also know that for most people, it’s too much work. The number of people who can make $150 with virtual sandals is really small. I made clothes in There for three months, and I only made a few hundred bucks — which still put me in the top 5% of people back then.

    I ama huge fan and proponent of leveraging that creative impulse. But I also know just how hard it is and how few people can actually do it successfully right now.

  89. I think that for MMOs as opposed to VWs (thie distinction being than an MMO is conceived as a vehicle for one or more presupplied games) the glove analogy is actually better in the majority of cases. It’s not “roleplay” for most players, it’s not about character for most players – roleplayers are always a minority which is which i’ve claimed before that MMORPGs do not exist.

    The glove analogy gives us use of the character as a tool and is far more apt for the endless crop of levelling MMOs.

  90. >Technically, they were streaming, actually. :)

    Obviously, you’re going to be the expert here, but wait a second — streaming in an integrated world that is persistent and dynamic and constantly changing? I thought the whole point of WoW and other MMORPGs is that they are forced to have a shard system where you have to just pick one server or whatever, and can’t go hopping around them. Plus, you can’t put a miniature golf game down on an instance and start playing miniature golf, you have to go by the rules of the game, which are rigid.

    >Actually, those weren’t, but several of the examples I listed, such as OnLive and Alphaworld, were in fact streaming 3d user-built worlds.

    Hmmm. Why doesn’t this seem very convincing? a) nobody has ever heard of them except a hardcore elite community of gamers? b) how easy were they to use?

    >This is a rather large misapprehension. Some worlds were that way, some weren’t (the majority, in fact).

    Why am I not buying this? Because all these worlds give you a pre-determined story and set of races or types, like you have to pick the warrior or the monk, you don’t get to pick the golfer or the shopper.

    >This was and is common on all the MOO like worlds and all the talker style worlds. RP tends to exist only in the middle segment of the spectrum.

    Well, wait a second. This isn’t a fair fight here, Raph. I keep saying “SL and similar social worlds are like X because we all know that game virtual worlds are like Y, and you keep saying, oh, but these old-fashioned text-based games had all those features of Y that SL has.”

    But how can you compare *text-based games* to SL? I mean, first of all, SL incorporates the text and the text-base game into it, and pwns it. (Actually, there’s a certain absurdity to all these distinctions because all worlds include human communication.)

    I don’t even think it’s legitimate to keep having this debate *allow* references to text-based games — they aren’t at the cutting edge of the technology, heck, they don’t even much technology to speak to, and they don’t have growing populations. I realize they may have their very hard-core fan bases, but aren’t they just quaint pass-times?

    It seems to me the only fair debate here would be on 3-D or 2-D gaming virtual worlds vs. 2-D or 3-D social virtual worlds, and you shouldn’t get to keep invoking text — and then claim text as your own personal grandfather, and text not as the grandfather of social worlds too — if anything text games are the grandparents of social worlds even more than game worlds. Text is a different genre, whatever the obvious parallels. To sit and talk about user-created content and user-created architectural commissions in a text-based game as being equivalent to the same in Second Life seems lame to me — there’s no pictures. Oh, sure, maybe there are fansites with drawings but the reason they call it text-based is because its text-based, without pictures, without immersive 3-d — all the 3-d stuff is in your mind.

    Are we going to have to insist on rhetorical purity now and say the debate has to be about mind-based or imagination-based games and technology-generated games or something? I really think you need to hold aside your arguments based on text analogies — they were simply an earlier stage of development, and just because their external trappings were largely game-like and continue to evolve in game worlds doesn’t mean that *what happened in them* is only the province of game worlds — people are always telling me about the text-based world where some player got another player fired from their RL job over a drama.

    >Yeah, and there’s no point in rehashing them. Text IS better at some things, and 3d IS better at others. Some research shows that women prefer 1st person, some other data shows they prefer 3rd person, some other shows they prefer text. What it boils down to is that the display method is not a limit on the serverside simulation, as I have written before. 3d is not suddenly a magical new thing, either; as I have mentioned already, there have been 3d worlds with user content creation and scripting before.

    What I always think is hilarious about these endless “text-based is better” arguments is that in Second Life, what do you spend probably 75 percent or more of your time doing in there? TYPING TEXT.

    I disagree. I think social worlds a the magical new thing because of the immersive and transformative capacity, the acceleration, etc. I think it’s simply at a different level.

    To keep saying that there were 3-D worlds with user content and scripting is to avoid having to explain why they aren’t noticed, don’t exist, aren’ relevant — and could that have something to do with clunkiness, lack of usability, limitations, whatever that indicate they aren’t at the growing edge?

    I mean, we could have had a debate in the 1940s about whether TV or radio will be the cutting edge of technology, and somebody could keep intervening and saying TV owes it success to building on the traditions established by icon-painting or European figurative painting, or radio owes its success to
    building on the traditions of Homeric legends, but what would those traditions have to do with explaining why the future belonged to TV, not radio?

    Of course, every technology arises not in a vacuum, and draws on the advances made in its own genre and other genres. But what has it done *lately* is the right question! I would endorse what Cory Linden is asking on his blog — what’s the list of technical advances now in 3-d games? Where are the areas they are pushing the envelope, and where, by contrast, a social world like TSO or SL has reached its limits, hypothetically?

    >I always use the analogy of a mask, myself.

    A mask conceals the identity. A glove merely fits, doesn’t distract from your face, or just keeps your hands clean (provides some protection of identity without necessarily hiding identity completely). I think they are very different actions. But I accept that you understand “it fits”.

    >No, I said they were more entertaining. Entertainment generally rests on giving the entertainer control.

    Bingo. Now you’re revealed your hand. You believe the future lies in giving the *entertainer* control. Well, no. The future lies in giving the *entertained* control. Now, that means that there will always be 10 percent of the entertained who entertain the other 90 percent as Will Wright said about the Sims, or maybe it will grow to 25 percent in a setting where the amateur’s abilities can be leveraged, but it won’t be the *entertainer* driving it in the same privileged position as before.

    How can I put this gently? The future of virtual worlds doesn’t lie with game devs. Who develops whom? Game devs develop themselves, i.e. their companies, and develop their worlds by their own lights. Players/residents want to have a world of their own that they make, and the exclusivity and secrecy and proprietary nature inherent in a private entertainment company are not sufficient and even obstructive to their desire for governance.

    >Because it does take money to make these environments — isn’t Linden up to over $40m raised at this point?

    Isn’t it funny how you look only at the “taking of money to make these environments” as coming from the VC end? What about all those people who bought land — entire servers, entire continents of servers, at $1000 or even $2000 a pop and pay $195 a month maintenance on them?? There are some 2600 of them. I think these buyers, from the lowly 512 m2 owner on up, have just as much stake if not more than Omidar.

    This is not to say that innovation automatically comes with a thousand different coloured flower pots on 512s, but yes, from among the 512s or 500,000 m2 come greater, more sustainable innovation ultimately.

    >The capital isn’t the objective, mind you, it’s the enabling means to the end.

    Well, whose end? I don’t think you can posit that game companies merely exist to serve the public weal. They are businesses. But people don’t want a Mr. Lee’s Hong Kong, they want to run the worlds, too.

    This is about taking power away from game company masters and their academic subs and sharing it with other kind of entities. I realize you’re not going to like that.

    >All I am trying to tell you is, I completely agree with you personally. But I also know that for most people, it’s too much work. The number of people who can make $150 with virtual sandals is really small. I made clothes in There for three months, and I only made a few hundred bucks — which still put me in the top 5% of people back then.

    Well, yes and no. Arranging the prefabs and artifacts and objects purchased then becomes the content creation then for some people. Arranging the events and interactions in them becomes the content creation for others. Content creation then is free to move away from inventoriable content to non inventoriable content and become more free and complex. And everybody can make something, and actually, most people have. I think the percentage is simply that much greater. I can hardly put 2 prims together but I manage to generate hundreds of Lindens each week from content sales, most of them merely repackaged library-textured things.

    >I am a huge fan and proponent of leveraging that creative impulse. But I also know just how hard it is and how few people can actually do it successfully right now.

    Among the reasons its hard is that game devs want to keep a realm unto themselves to which only they keep the keys. They want to apprentice filtered and approved newbies on an as-needed basis, and keep the rest of us out. You’ll say this isn’t about conspiracy but about ability. To which I can only point to something like the history of midwivery. The tendency is to create credentialed professions that can identify themselves to the extent they can keep out amateurs, by invoking abilities and methodical rigour. That’s all good. Yet the beauty of Second Life is that it erased those barriers again so that you didn’t need an architecture degree or license to make a compelling build in which hundreds of people might begin to interact and spend many hours of their time.

    >I think that for MMOs as opposed to VWs (thie distinction being than an MMO is conceived as a vehicle for one or more presupplied games) the glove analogy is actually better in the majority of cases. It’s not “roleplay” for most players, it’s not about character for most players – roleplayers are always a minority which is which i’ve claimed before that MMORPGs do not exist.

    I’m hearing you on that, but I’m also pointing out that the game company forces a set of predictive and rote roles you are forced to play. You can’t be a golfer. You can only be a warrior, etc.

    >The glove analogy gives us use of the character as a tool and is far more apt for the endless crop of levelling MMOs.

    It’s like putting on a glove, but it doesn’t remain a subservient tool/glove because it is a state you become. You don’t say going to sleep is like putting on a glove, you say getting under the covers is like putting on a glove and going to sleep is another state of being.

  91. Metaverse Grudge Match

    In the wake of the Metaverse Roadmap (are you tired of hearing about this event yet?) a really interesting distributed conversation has developed that has as its main interlocutors massively multiplayer game designer Raph Koster, chief technology offic…

  92. Prokofy, I am afraid I am going to dump a large pile of links on you, and get rather testy.

    Obviously, you’re going to be the expert here, but wait a second — streaming in an integrated world that is persistent and dynamic and constantly changing?

    I suggest you go look up the ActiveWorlds platform as just one example.

    I thought the whole point of WoW and other MMORPGs is that they are forced to have a shard system where you have to just pick one server or whatever, and can’t go hopping around them.

    That’s not “the point,” it’s simply because nobody can afford to make enough content.

    Plus, you can’t put a miniature golf game down on an instance and start playing miniature golf, you have to go by the rules of the game, which are rigid.

    This varied by world. For example, if you are willing to look at a 2d world, you can try out Furcadia, which lets users build their own “dreams” (aka places), including a rather nice scripting environment.

    Hmmm. Why doesn’t this seem very convincing? a) nobody has ever heard of them except a hardcore elite community of gamers? b) how easy were they to use?

    You may try AlphaWorld for yourself. Or OnLive Traveler if the website’s up (if not, you can read about it at Steve DiPaola’s page).

    As far as the publicity, I honestly think it’s just that its time has come.

    I also think that we need to define “nobody has ever heard of them.” Again, WebWorld had 250,000 users log in back in 1994.

    This is a rather large misapprehension. Some worlds were that way, some weren’t (the majority, in fact).

    Why am I not buying this? Because all these worlds give you a pre-determined story and set of races or types, like you have to pick the warrior or the monk, you don’t get to pick the golfer or the shopper.

    You’re not buying it because you haven’t visited enough different worlds. You have a biased sample.

    Well, wait a second. This isn’t a fair fight here, Raph. I keep saying “SL and similar social worlds are like X because we all know that game virtual worlds are like Y, and you keep saying, oh, but these old-fashioned text-based games had all those features of Y that SL has.”

    But how can you compare *text-based games* to SL?

    Because virtual worlds are largely rendering agnostic.

    I don’t even think it’s legitimate to keep having this debate *allow* references to text-based games — they aren’t at the cutting edge of the technology

    Then we should disallow SL because it’s not peer-to-peer? I mean, hell, peer-to-peer virtual world technology is a couple of years old already!

    Ignoring history is never a good idea.

    heck, they don’t even much technology to speak to, and they don’t have growing populations. I realize they may have their very hard-core fan bases, but aren’t they just quaint pass-times?

    There’s more people playing them than playing SL. :P They’re definitely not growing. But you’re engaging in an appeal to ridicule here (“quaint pastimes”) that reveals that you don’t know enough about them to comment.

    you shouldn’t get to keep invoking text — and then claim text as your own personal grandfather, and text not as the grandfather of social worlds too

    I do believe I was the one who made the explicit comparison between text based social worlds and SL; therefore, I absolutely DO claim text worlds as the grandfather of 3d social worlds. This is a straw man argument.

    To sit and talk about user-created content and user-created architectural commissions in a text-based game as being equivalent to the same in Second Life seems lame to me — there’s no pictures.

    Here’s you assuming that in general, in the scope of human creativity, pictures are more important than words, sculpture is more important than novels… I mean, come on. We’re talking about media here. What about all the forms of user-created content that are not found in SL but are found in other worlds? You are granting primacy to one medium, when different media simply have different strengths.

    they were simply an earlier stage of development, and just because their external trappings were largely game-like and continue to evolve in game worlds doesn’t mean that *what happened in them* is only the province of game worlds

    You are literally inventing arguments and putting them in my mouth. I never said any such thing. You are the one who is dismissing text social worlds, not me.

    That said, you are also inaccurate when you say “their external trappings were largely game-like.” Look, LambdaMOO and TinyTIM are still running, go log in. They are merely two of the most prominent examples of the thousands of worlds that were not “largely game-like.”

    I think social worlds a the magical new thing because of the immersive and transformative capacity, the acceleration, etc. I think it’s simply at a different level.

    They date from 1985 and are not new. And yes, I mean with graphics.

    To keep saying that there were 3-D worlds with user content and scripting is to avoid having to explain why they aren’t noticed, don’t exist, aren’ relevant — and could that have something to do with clunkiness, lack of usability, limitations, whatever that indicate they aren’t at the growing edge?

    So now, SL is special because the earlier ones all sucked. I think here we are seeing a form of special pleading.

    Let’s be completely objective. What number of users makes one of these worlds relevant to the discussion? What level of web integration?

    But what has it done *lately* is the right question!

    No, the right question is “what about all the innovations from ten years ago that aren’t IN current worlds like SL?” As just one example that should be near and dear to your heart, why hasn’t SL (or There, or whatever world you choose) tried the innovations in democratic administration that LambdaMOO did? Does SL even have something equivalent to Mythic’s Team Leads program? — serious question, I have no idea!

    I would endorse what Cory Linden is asking on his blog — what’s the list of technical advances now in 3-d games? Where are the areas they are pushing the envelope, and where, by contrast, a social world like TSO or SL has reached its limits, hypothetically?

    I never said that TSO or SL had reached their limits.

    Nor are we talking about technical advances?

    We were discussing innovations, and I already gave a more extended chain of reasoning on that in this post.

    No, I said they were more entertaining. Entertainment generally rests on giving the entertainer control.

    Bingo. Now you’re revealed your hand. You believe the future lies in giving the *entertainer* control. Well, no. The future lies in giving the *entertained* control.

    Uh, the entertainer may be a player. Every content creator in SL is creating entertainment product. You are projecting your anti-admin feelings onto me here. The entire context of my recent post was other players who create content.

    How can I put this gently? The future of virtual worlds doesn’t lie with game devs. Who develops whom? Game devs develop themselves, i.e. their companies, and develop their worlds by their own lights. Players/residents want to have a world of their own that they make, and the exclusivity and secrecy and proprietary nature inherent in a private entertainment company are not sufficient and even obstructive to their desire for governance.

    You are arguing a position I have argued many times, including in this thread, and presenting it as something I oppose. Why are you doing that?

    Because it does take money to make these environments — isn’t Linden up to over $40m raised at this point?

    Isn’t it funny how you look only at the “taking of money to make these environments” as coming from the VC end? What about all those people who bought land — entire servers, entire continents of servers, at $1000 or even $2000 a pop and pay $195 a month maintenance on them?? There are some 2600 of them. I think these buyers, from the lowly 512 m2 owner on up, have just as much stake if not more than Omidar.

    You are missing the point. Of course those people have a stake. But none of their investment could have occurred without the money that built the platform.

    This is about taking power away from game company masters and their academic subs and sharing it with other kind of entities. I realize you’re not going to like that.

    I said this to a rather large public audience quite some time ago now. I still believe it firmly:

    I’m an artsy type, as Jessica is fond of reminding me, and you know, I have an MFA. I spent much of my life training to write crafted experiences. There’s an intense amount of learning and craft and skill that goes there, and I hate to say this to say this to all the film directors, writers, poets, um, painters, and everything else out there in the world: get over yourselves, the rest of the world is coming. Okay? People value self-expression. Is story going to go away? No. Is careful crafting going to go away? No. Are the professionals engaged in that going to go away? No–well, except that IP, the concept of intellectual property, may; but that’s a whole other side discussion.

    The thing is that people want to express themselves, and they don’t really care that 99% of everything is crap, because they are positive that the 1% they made isn’t. Okay? And fundamentally, they get ecstatic as soon as five people see it, right?

    So we can move to a meta-level of crafting experience. We can try to take a step up and say… you know, we can do what Lego did, which is give them the building blocks, so that they fundamentally can’t make something so screwed up that everyone ends up leaving. Okay? And that’s a different level of authorship than what we are used to, but it’s a really exciting area of authorship.

    It’s all them, guys, and fundamentally, authorship is about us. And it’s the wrong medium for it–it’s not what the medium is for.

    I also invite you to read this closely and tell me whether you honestly think that I’m “not going to like that.” I already pointed to this once.

    You are arguing against a position I don’t hold.

    [snip much more argument on that point]

    You’ll say this isn’t about conspiracy but about ability. To which I can only point to something like the history of midwivery. The tendency is to create credentialed professions that can identify themselves to the extent they can keep out amateurs, by invoking abilities and methodical rigour.

    Gosh, that sounds like stuff I have said before too.

    Bottom line:

    - I think it is a mistake to ignore history, and I think your arguments are going to have a lot of holes in them as long as you choose to do so.

    - I am doing you the courtesy of reading closely, following references, and replying as cogently as I can. It seems like you could do me the same courtesy.

    - I am not going to continue debating if you keep misrepresenting my position on things or putting words in my mouth; it effectively just generates spam and takes up time away from real discussions. I am not going to keep posting “That’s not what I said” over and over again.

  93. Raph, I appreciate all your links and I’ll study them carefully. I didn’t mean to “misrepresent” your position, I just don’t happen to know what you said at some talk in the past that I may not have pulled up on Google yet — it’s just not being familiar enough. I’m happy to get more familiar but I don’t think it should take *lots* of site visits to all kinds of games — that in fact are not “where it’s at” — to get the answer to the question: where’s the game that isn’t *like* a social world in that it might have a customer-content factor, or might have some income-generating factor — where are the games that are BETTER than the custom-content and income-generation of SL? Well? I have enough criticisms of SL, as do others, that we’d be only too glad if you pointed us to such a game/world/thingie.

    You’re the one who said there wasn’t enough arguing at the Metaverse conference, so I’m arguing *shrugs*. It’s peculiar to me that you keep banging on this question of recognizing that text games are the grandfathers of social worlds — I quite recognize it, stated it, acknowledged it, but here’s where the fork is: are they *also* grandfathers of *the latest advances in technology and pushing the envelope such as to show a direct lineage*?

    For this to be pursued fruitfully, we’d have to ask what is meant by “more advances”. Player governance? Well, ATITD has that. Corporate takeovers? Well, EVE has that, etc.

    Here, it seems that it’s social worlds making these innovations and not game worlds, as advanced as they get, and as much as both they owe to that grandparent of the text-based games. (But I personally don’t feel a need to make an all or nothing proposition, they’ll both advance, it’s just that for most ordinary people, the social worlds will be more of a draw.)

    The fact is, text-based role-playing is subsumed into a social world like SL, and people never go back. And some of the other games you’re mentioning are games that emptied out, past their prime.

    I have to say most of my experience of other games, whether its Furcadia, Active Worlds, City of Heroes, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, A Tale in the Desert, the old text-ones etc. etc. comes from *my customers who left those world to come to SL*. Some of them set up the exact same thing they left behind, same builds, same stilted way of speaking. I can recognize all the denizens of all kinds of text-based chat and RP games and sites by their way of talking like this: “*smiles*” or “*makes happy yelp of anticipation*”. They talk about themselves in the third person that way and type out their emotions instead of just speaking normally. So I have an admitted skewed sample here, but I have to say: those games are things that people *left and didn’t go back to even if they loved them so much they recreated them in the new country*.

    I’ve been to Active Worlds myself, a number of times, and tried to get along in it. It doesn’t cash out, as we say. I have many customers from AW who are excellent builders in SL. They don’t go back. AW has some of the features people like in a world; but not enough.

    So it’s important not to lost sight about what this discussion at this juncture is about: what are the *advantages* of game worlds such as to *prove* that they are better than social worlds on the whole as innovators and as “where the future as at”. The job is not to show merely that game worlds have the same stuff as social worlds. They have some of the same stuff, great. They have different stuff that’s better, great. But do they have so much the better stuff as to be the wave of the future? I don’t think so.

    You seem to be digging up dozens of examples that show that either historically, text-based games or MMORPGs have *the same features as* the social virtual worlds that came later. Yes, they do, we recognize that they have the *same* or even in some cases features *better than* the social worlds (better graphics, more compelling RP because the NPCs do the donkey work for you etc.) OK, but that isn’t what we were asking, is it? We’re asking *what makes the game worlds be at the cutting edge then, what makes them be the matrix for innovation then*. And that’s not what you’re answering by dredging up an example like Active Worlds, a world more narrowly constricted than SL, a game that doesn’t cash out, a game people are leaving, etc.

    You can agree that Active Worlds isn’t at the cutting edge of the Metaverse, right, Raph? So take that logic through the rest of your answers. Is LamdaMOO at the cutting edge of technology and development in the Metaverse? Etc. Obviously we have to distinguish between their metaversal or pre-metaversal qualities that are useful to know about and appreciate, and what is at the cutting edge. Cory asked you to list your game world’s advances in cutting edge technology — so obviously bringing up Active Worlds or LamdaMOO then isn’t a fit, because they’re not advancing the entire field.

    (BTW, quaintness is fine by me, I still play Cyberflix’ “Titanic” and I dig out “Dust: Tale of the Wired West” and play the bounty hunters section.)

    I’m glad you clarified that in your book, entertainers can be *players* or residents of virtual worlds, too. Good!

    >..”the right question is “what about all the innovations from ten years ago that aren’t IN current worlds like SL?” As just one example that should be near and dear to your heart, why hasn’t SL (or There, or whatever world you choose) tried the innovations in democratic administration that LambdaMOO did?”

    Totally is the right question to ask. So where are they? Not in games or worlds at all? On a social space somehwere on the Internet?

    You mentioned LamdaMOO’s far-reaching social innovation of democracy and whether SL has this. Answer: of course it does. There are already experiences in democratic administration in SL, some several years old now, that residents organize themselves, like Neualtenberg (which I think of as not democracy but social democracy) which is less democratic, but surely it fits into your category; there are also experiments in non-democratic governance like Gor; there are emergencing models of communities with rotating stewards and governance on the fly in group IMs like the Independent State of Caledonia; there are all kinds of groups struggling with the issues of establishing rules and creating mechanisms for dispute resolution, i.e. like the rental communities and the Ansheland continent of Dreamland. That’s EXACTLY what I began my critique with saying that PRECISELY because I feel we are making these discoveries and innovations and experiments in just these areas, and not just out skilling and questing, that we should count and that our worlds-without-worlds should be recognized.

    Nobody is going back to LamdaMOO to experiment in this way because the very same thing and more is available in SL (or even TSO if you want to work it that way or ATITD). And they are atracting non-gamers — I guess that should be an interesting test, too, the degree to which a game or social world can attract brand-new users who never gamed or used worlds or even social software before (I see a fair number of them in SL).

    So, in sum, yes, I’ll read your history, your references, and go questing, and talk to the bosses, and try to beat the bosses, and try to get the gold, Raph, sure. But I do want to suggest that when you or those in your guild or fraternity of game devs have to make the case of “why games” or “why games help our destiny” or “why games both entertainment games and serious games are going to make us better human beings” to the chair of a Congressional panel, to network television anchors, to university presidents, to all kinds of major opinion makers, just telling them to go skill up by participating in these actual games is just not going to cut it. The argumentation has to be based outside the gaming itself. Since SL is not a goal-oriented, skill-up/quest/kill/loot/apprentice etc. game in the same way, I think it just makes it easier to make the case for virtuality to these opinion makers using that medium.

    I’m going to refrain from any long diatribe against Powerpoint and how it makes every mundane thought seem like the aphorism of the ages just because of its layout. And I won’t make you more testy by frothing about technolibertarianism and the tekkie wikinista ethic I abhor, other than to say that they never have a tolerance for letting the technology that they claim exclusive ownership and knowledge over be used for something other than technolibertarianism; and the creator-fascism they spawn is only a hair’s breadth away from their “libertarianism”.

    I don’t think games help you find your destiny. They delay and distract you from finding your destiny, unless your destiny includes finding another gamer like yourself and getting married in RL, only to have an affair online again with another gamer. I think social worlds may have much of the same problem of being a diversion. Yet I bother with them because I still believe in their transformative power and the leveraging of the power of the amateur.

  94. [...] [Recent Entries][Archive][Friends][User Info] Below are 25 friends entries, after skipping 75 most recent ones:[<< Previous 25 entries -- Next 25 entries >>] May 8th, 2006 08:43 pmalecaustin[Link] Raph Koster on Metaverses/Technology AdoptionRaph Koster has an excellent post up about how technologies tend to accrete, not simply replace one another, and the probable future direction of metaverses and reality annotation. Worth reading. [...]

  95. I just don’t happen to know what you said at some talk in the past that I may not have pulled up on Google yet — it’s just not being familiar enough.

    The KGC talk was one I hadn’t seen before either; I found it on his “Exceptionalism” post.

    Here, it seems that it’s social worlds making these innovations and not game worlds

    Both ATITD and EVE-Online are slated as game worlds, not social worlds. Specifically, Raph categorized them as “worldy games”, but not having actually played them, I say nothing.

    what are the *advantages* of game worlds such as to *prove* that they are better than social worlds on the whole as innovators and as “where the future as at”.

    My answer is “audience”. I read Raph’s claim not as “game worlds are the only innovators”, but rather as “an innovation doesn’t become widespread until a popular game world picks it up”. I disclaim that I might be wildly incorrect about my interpretation; that happens plenty.

    They delay and distract you from finding your destiny, unless your destiny includes finding another gamer like yourself and getting married in RL, only to have an affair online again with another gamer.

    I have to ask: Have you read Richard Bartle’s book or Raph Koster’s book? Both address this tangentially. And more importantly, they note why games are important in and of themselves, regardless of the context they’re in. (Raph more than Richard, granted.)

    I somewhat doubt that you have, since they’re both game-designer oriented. But as a case for games, or virtual worlds… they’ve both given me notable shifts in perspective. Raph’s book, by the way, is much easier to read. =)

  96. >I read Raph’s claim not as “game worlds are the only innovators”, but rather as “an innovation doesn’t become widespread until a popular game world picks it up”.

    That makes more sense, surely. I don’t think that’s what he meant tho since he still seems to be privileging the game worlds per se. And then this gets to circular reasoning — game worlds are at the cutting edge because only when the mass audiences in them notice an advanced technology and give it heft, will it be influential. So…is that fair? No. Because some other place is where the innovations will be generated then. Are you proposing a model whereby SL or some other social world does the innovating and sparks it to WoW, and then WoW massifies it and then leads at the edge with it lol?

    No, I haven’t read those books, I’ve merely read the reviews on Amazon, as I suspect many people do with books. Sure, homo ludens needs to play and all that. I’ll put it on my list.

    I would think of ATID and Eve as having a lot of social aspect to it. I couldn’t get past the first pod scren in Eve but I did spend a lot of time in ATID. I was so happy to be able to be able to move my sim/character around off one lot and run around mountains after being cooped up in TSO for so long that I just stayed on that welcome island and kept growing stuff and wandering around dumping huge loads of dirt off the mountains. I loved ATITD…but nobody would talk to me. And when I finally got off the island, it was impossible to figure out how to pick a shard and find where the people were. I must have walked thousands of miles in the desert without getting anywhere substantial. I think I went off course in that game since I didn’t like the idea of being forced to join a guild. But from everything I gather from reading their newsletters and such, they are very social and have player governnace. Eve has corporate takeover and expensive scams and such. I wouldnl’t put them strictly on the game end of the spectrum.

  97. I definitely classify ATITD and Eve as games. But they are “worldy games,” edging towards the other side of the spectrum.

    Michael has my argument right. I specifically said “lasting innovation” for that very reason. As I said in the other post, of course the truly wacky and new ideas come from the edge, and from the social worlds and not from the big games. But there are literally thousands of innovations that have been left behind because they didn’t make it to the big games. Many of those are being cited as new in SL by some folks (Cory listed user scripting, for example) even though they aren’t new, just not previously popular. It takes adoption to make a given innovation important.

    On democracy: I don’t think SL has what LambdaMOO had (and later abandoned) — it was admin sponsored. To be exact, the admins abdicated their position of privilege and simply agreed to implement what the game’s citiznes as a whole voted on. So it wasn’t a democratic experiment embedded within an authoritarian world, it was actually a democratic world. For a little while, anyway.

  98. I have to say most of my experience of other games, whether its Furcadia, Active Worlds, City of Heroes, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, A Tale in the Desert, the old text-ones etc. etc. comes from *my customers who left those world to come to SL*.

    Do you stand outside Divorce Lawyers offices and ask people what they think of marriage? Or go to the Farmer’s Fruit stand and ask about the healthiness of McDonalds? I’d add a link here about biased samples, but one was allready provided. Most people don’t stay in one virtual world forever. This also is covered in Richard Bartle’s work as a good thing. Heck, ATITD is even designed with endings, so you know when the show’s over and you can figure out if you want a second show or find something else. (Tell your ATITD customers Kir says “Greetings”.) As far as why they talk that way, they are role playing, something you might have very little interest in.

    What about all those people who bought land — entire servers, entire continents of servers, at $1000 or even $2000 a pop and pay $195 a month maintenance on them?? There are some 2600 of them. I think these buyers, from the lowly 512 m2 owner on up, have just as much stake if not more than Omidar.

    So, 40 million from the main company, 2,600,000 from others to buy servers and 507,000 in monthly maintenance …. Explain to me again why it’s so impressive that someone made 150,000?

  99. Given that in many countries more than half of marriages end in divorce, it’s not a bad idea to stand outside of divorce lawyers’ offices and ask people what they think of marriage. Some people like to explore what makes people come to games. I happen to merely be positioned to explore what makes people leave games. It’s fine if it is biased, it is one more report to add to the pile of already biased reports skewed in other directions. Of course people come and go from worlds, and leave them, and sometimes never come back, and sometimes stay. I don’t know why I have to take a swipe about “role-playing”. Why do I *have* to role play. Something automatic happens when you go in a virtual world and you access some different parts of yourself or perhaps you express yourself differently but it’s not planned and rehearsed, and it’s all you. It’s the “many I’s”.

    I don’t claim that my math there was some kind of precise science, there’s an obvious fact not explained — that there are hundreds of people buying private islands who elect to hide them from view so they aren’t counted. Not sure if the new economic statistics LL has put up of 800 plus owned islands includes the hidden ones.

    It’s impression that someone makes $150,000 after the steep costs of tier, labour, etc. because they are making it in a virtual world. And it’s just as important if someone makes only $150, if they made in a sense “something out of nothing,” something on gossamer wings.

  100. It’s fine if it is biased, it is one more report to add to the pile of already biased reports skewed in other directions.

    It’s biased to the point of having no value. Asking people playing a virtual world which game is the best better sure as hell be “This one is the best” or It is in real trouble. To take that piece of data and use it to determine that Second Life is the best is foolish. It would be like asking a sports team if they are going to win their next game. “We sure are.” they would reply. From this you can clearly predict that all teams will win their next game.

    It’s impression that someone makes $150,000 after the steep costs of tier, labour, etc. because they are making it in a virtual world. And it’s just as important if someone makes only $150, if they made in a sense “something out of nothing,” something on gossamer wings.

    You seem to have missed my point. That there is little magic in turning 40 million in venture capital into one pile of $150,000 and a bunch of piles of $150, esp. if the piles don’t add back up to the cash you started with. Even less impressive if those piles belong to someone else.

    Again, I wish Second Life much fun and happyness and success for their experiment, and I think people building there may end up being builders of great Virtual Worlds someday in the future.

  101. >That there is little magic in turning 40 million in venture capital into one pile of $150,000 and a bunch of piles of $150, esp. if the piles don’t add back up to the cash you started with. Even less impressive if those piles belong to someone else.

    Oh? That seems an odd way to run the numbers and an even odder way to judge a game. Of course, we’re in new territory here, as there never really have been games or virtual world platforms with uses ranging from entertainment to education in which subscribers could make a profit. In the traditional model, for a game or cable TV, the subscriber gets a service and pays a flat fee, and the company tries to sell him various featurse and add-ons beyond the basic service. Built into the subscription fee and also his other ventures like stock, etc., is the model for his profit. Venture capitalists don’t try to calculate their profit by examing whether one million customers’ income makes back what they put into it — as you say, that’s other people’s money. What they would be interested in I would imagine is ensuring a long-term stable return on their investment in a business that was so attractive as a platform precisely because people saw it as a tool for enhancing their income, like investment in a xerox machine or fax machine.

    Honestly, you really seem to be matching apples and oranges here. The return on investment isn’t judged by what the customer makes, at least not yet, at least not until we see if this is the model for virtual worlds. LL says they aren’t at the profit point yet but they claim they will reach that this year, I guess it’s like amazon.com

    Raph, I’m still not hearing what is *new in games now* that is cutting edge — the shopping list of the Next Big Things out of *existing games today* — you keep proving the point (which I accept) that these other older games had the same features (like scripting in the furries’ game). Of course, I *am* wondering if they had scripting that was as robust, accessible to all users, able to be manipulated by all users so that elements could be built up in products, innovated at the same velocity, and sold for the same kind of profits as in SL. But perhaps this is like trying to ask whether the digital camera sells better and has more features than the Polaroid camera when it first came out, it’s always going to be relative.

    >to be exact, the admins abdicated their position of privilege and simply agreed to implement what the game’s citiznes as a whole voted on. So it wasn’t a democratic experiment embedded within an authoritarian world, it was actually a democratic world. For a little while, anyway.

    I take your point. Maybe it was easier for admins to yield their privileges when masses of server farms and massives of income weren’t involved from selling servers as land, and masses of venture capital weren’t involved (I’m just going to make an assumption that LamdaMOO didn’t have the scale and magnitude of those things, even if it had its own parallels).

    The Lindens are going in the opposite direction from democracy, however, still feting, still culling and filtering and picking out junior game devs and world stewards out of the elite now with this new “Second Life Views” program where they will select top residents to come on trips to Linden Lab in San Francisco to discuss features and policies.

  102. there never really have been games or virtual world platforms with uses … in which subscribers could make a profit.

    Subscribers have made profit for a long time. I’m sure there are people who pay their rent based on money made in SWG right now. Sure they are breaking the terms of service, but that doesn’t make their money any less green. Hmm, must have been the phrase I dropped that was key.

    there never really have been games or virtual world platforms with uses ranging from entertainment to education …..

    Nope, all good games are fun, and fun is learning. So they all have entertainment and education. No, I’m not saying that all previous games were exactly the same as Second Life. They were different. I am saying the digital camera and the polaroid camera both took pictures. I am saying that some people are using the digital camera the way they used to use the polaroid, some people still use the polaroid, and some people leave the cameras at home and take pictures with their cel phone.

    Honestly, you really seem to be matching apples and oranges here. The return on investment isn’t judged by what the customer makes, at least not yet, at least not until we see if this is the model for virtual worlds. LL says they aren’t at the profit point yet but they claim they will reach that this year, I guess it’s like amazon.com

    Eh, you’ve repeated asked us to be impressed that someone made $150,000 in one year, I’m just pointing out that she was given free use of a $40 million dollar company to do it. In that scale it seems a lot less impressive. Don’t be too proud of this tecnological nightmare you’ve constructed. I often wonder if Second Lifers don’t understand we can’t all make money playing it. Hmm, looks like it’s not just you, the Second Life website lists Online Now: 5,398 US$ Spent Today: 144,282.00 Really, I see a clear focus of dollars replacing XP. Which begs the question: Is scripting objects that much fun? If it’s not, why do it? If it is, why buy from someone else?

    Amazon was pulling a profit by their forth quarter, it was only 1 cent, but it was that quick. That’s why they are one of the success stories of the internet, unlike all those that went boom, they had a clear plan to turn profitable quickly.

  103. Why would I want to dress up like a knight or an orc and go be stuck in the middle ages swinging my sword around for a limited, rote set of functions that go nowhere? It’s just not interesting.

    I realize this is a bit late, but I think it might bear mentioning as to why game worlds still have some importance: By your logic, why would you read a book written by someone else when you can buy a MadLibs and just write your own story?
    Sometimes it’s fun to just consume content in an environment where you aren’t necessarily required or able to modify that content. I think the number of players for game worlds are a testament to that fact. Sure, you can implement (to some degree) these worlds in SL, but they are still going to be that limited set of functions, they might even have knights and orcs!

  104. Rik, I doubt very many people in SWG pay their rent. And the really entrepreneurial SWGers left and came to SL to work and make money there.

    Education about…what again? Orcs and their powers and weaknesses and strengths? The arcane knowledge of game worlds isn’t very useful and it’s also hard to stomach when you have to master a lot of arcane knowledge in RL, too. I always get a feeling of weariness when I open these new games and see some elaborate legend about some beleaguered slave people fleeing from some planet on fire and heading off to enslave others in some cosmic drama blah blah, it’s always the same story, underneath.

    You’re absolutely right about the people still using Polaraid and some on cell phones and that’s why this debate gets ridiculous after awhile — some people are going to do some stuff, some others, and all kinds of worlds described in the listing in the other thready are likely to generate innovations that serve those people, if no one else. I’m also thinking it’s that coterminous use of multiple generations of technology that might constitute a substantial barrier to the Metaverse coming in to being, and maybe that’s a good thing?

    >Eh, you’ve repeated asked us to be impressed that someone made $150,000 in one year, I’m just pointing out that she was given free use of a $40 million dollar company to do it

    What’s important about Anshe Chung — and her customers — and all the others like her, like Desmond Chung who created the Independent State of Caledon and such — is that they made sustainable worlds. They were able to monetarize their world making and not remain dependent on game devs. The expenditures of time, treasure, and talent they had to make to get those profits are way out of proportion to what most venture capitalists would ever invest. It’s more like a sweat equity project. But the main thing to report is that sustainable continents, world within worlds, can be created. I think that leverages the world-product that the Lindens have created considerably.

    Ultimately, your statement is still peculiar. We don’t say about somewho who leases a Xerox machine and buys 10 computers that they’ve been “given free use of Xerox and Dell, or whatever billiong dollar companies.” The “free use” concept isn’t accurate, anyway. The tier on each island is $195 a month; the $1000-$2000 purchase price can’t be made back even with full occupancy even in 90 days often — the margins on this high-wire act are very slender. In fact, this reminds to do a blog on what really goes into making that $150,000 that really puts it into perspective. The main thing to understand about all those who make money in SL is that *they do not bill their hours at RL rates*.

  105. That is, to clarify: if I lease a Xerox, buy a Dell, lease a postage meter, etc. and have a business selling newsletters and doing consulting, you don’t say that I used these large companies “for free” to make my $50,000 a year. You just say I used tools and technology to do a business. There’s no sneering about it. That’s why I don’t get the sneer about Anshe doing the same thing.

  106. You seem completely clueless as to how VC’s operate.

    “What they would be interested in I would imagine is ensuring a long-term stable return on their investment in a business that was so attractive as a platform precisely because people saw it as a tool for enhancing their income, like investment in a xerox machine or fax machine.”

    Long term? VC’s? not likely sunshine.

    “The expenditures of time, treasure, and talent they had to make to get those profits are way out of proportion to what most venture capitalists would ever invest.”

    I…don’t…think….so!

    There are many types of investors and funding, and lumping all of them under the generic title of VC as a basis for ROI arguments is just plain ignorant.
    And before you attack me with some bogus response based on anonimity or nitpicking, as is your usual argumentative misdirection technique, go and do a basic course of investment funding.

    *reaches to table for popcorn*

  107. In games, a year is a long time, two years, 5 years, wow. These LL VCs have been there for a few years. That’s pretty long term, seems to me. The attraction for some of them is the idea that this is more than just a game and that it is a platform with business or educational or non-profit uses, too.

    what does it matter what kind of different VCs there are? There’s a fundamentally incorrect thing that was previously stated, namely, that just because Anshe uses this game/world/platform/thingie to make her $150,000, and is therefore dependent on those servers and that world, that there is something ephemeral or illegitimate about her $150,000. But why? They’re more real than the ephemeral earnings of goldfarmers which first of all, aren’t always legal to make and withdraw under the TOS, and second of all are much more risky — I don’t know the window open for most goldfarming in games but it seems like due to the risk, that you have to get in and get out fast. More importantly, as I already explained, you don’t dis somebody who runs a consulting business while leasing a xerox machine or a computer, these are tools, you don’t say, “they’ve exploited these companies to make their money” — the tools are designed to help people run businesses, in fact.

    I don’t know what “I don’t think so” could possibly mean, except a misunderstanding of my phrase. Let me repeat: the expenditures of time and talent that people like Anshe — people inside the virtual worlds developing them (not the VCs) — are way out of proportion to what the venture capitalist expends. That’s simply true. That is, a venture capitalist doesn’t have to work 16 days in a sweat-equity proposition, he just plunks down the money and then watches how the company performs, by attending board meetings. He’s on a yacht, sipping Campari, she’s pushing prims and struggling to put out balky prefabs on laggy sims.

    I hardly see that I’d need any kind of course in investment funding to understand these basic premises, and I understand a lot more about it from experience than you might imagine LOL. The VCs put money into a company like LL because they hope it will grow and be attractive and cutting edge.

    THEY don’t complain that Anshe makes $150,000 and gets on the cover of Business Week. THEY don’t call her an “outlier” (in either meaning of the term, whether a statistical oddity or a person remote from the village). THEY don’t dismiss what she does at a certain level — she’s a selling point for them. That’s why it’s odd for people to be picking on her in that fashion, when she is part of what sells the platform as something workable, and that is supposed to be the tide that raises all boats.

    I think some people are so conditioned to seeing the aberration of a goldfarmer striking it rich that they continue to see people making money in virtual worlds as an oddity and as faintly illegal or unsavory. I suppose that image will cling for some time.

    Hey, I’m done with this thread.

  108. Education about…what again?

    There is a book, Theory of Fun, you might want to read it. But let me just say that you can learn things playing checkers, and those things are not about how a king is two peons stacked on top of each other.

    What’s important about Anshe Chung — .. — is that they made sustainable worlds

    Thank you for making my point more succinct than I was able to. It is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable at this point. It’s not sustainable if Linden Labs gets another level of investors. It’s not sustainable until Second Life itself starts to pull in a profit. Right now they are burning money creating the virtual spot it functions in, no monthly fee for new visitors, ads all over the internet. Maybe it will pay off, they seem to think it will and they have likely researched the topic further than I have. But before it will you will need more customers, which means population growth, which may or may not mean your current in-game business models will work. The new immigrants may give away more content than they consume, or may not pay as much for content, or may not purchase the same content at all. It may be that someone else likes Second Life but thinks it needs voice chat built in and goes and creates a competing product. Or it may be that everything works out in the end. Hard to say. Easy to say: The current situation is not sustainable.

  109. “Hey, I’m done with this thread.”

    Amen to that…given the fact that your last post is littered with gross generalisations, trite assumptions, and the usual litany of bogus, argumentative tripe.

    All kudo’s to anshe, btw, for making an income out of SL…but the only person who knows how much she actually makes IN PROFIT is Anshe herself…and continually trotting out secondhand figures of 150k to act as the primary case study for your argument is rather loose. Business week focused on land and currency holdings which is able to be loosly verified and estimated by the current exchange rate.

  110. The VCs put money into a company like LL because they hope it will grow and be attractive and cutting edge.

    No, venture capitalists invest in companies like Linden Labs because venture capitalists are reasonably confident that they will receive significant returns on their investment. Whether the company features growth, attractiveness, or cutting-edge technologies is irrelevant to VCs if these attributes aren’t providing significant returns.

    You might be interested in these articles on venture capital written by Guy Kawasaki, who also publishes in Harvard Business Review. Kawasaki is a real-life venture capitalist whose blog should provide you an insider’s perspective on the OPM trade.

  111. This is, of course, completely irrelevant, but:

    a king is two peons stacked on top of each other

    That’s an absolutely FASCINATING statement. Think of it! Everyone’s a peon… but a king (or whatever ruler; a government!) is just another peon who rules… by consent of the governed (the one underneath).

    It’s been so long since I’ve played checkers that I forgot that little rule about stacking. Nowadays, we flip the piece over and there’s a little crown symbol. =P

  112. Morgan, these two are the same thing, so to argue against this statement by repeating it a different way is merely to take it in a narrow, literalist construction:

    “The VCs put money into a company like LL because they hope it will grow and be attractive and cutting edge.”

    “No, venture capitalists invest in companies like Linden Labs because venture capitalists are reasonably confident that they will receive significant returns on their investment.”

    We were talking about VCs, not philanthropists. (Actually, Omidar is both, and plays both roles with SL.) It would be manifestly silly to expect VCs to invest merely to watch something “grow and be attractive and cutting edge”. I didn’t say that, duh. Obviously, “to grow and be attractive and cutting edge” means *to be profitable,* to get subscribers and higher-tier paying internal developers. What would this conversation be about, anyway, then.

    Joe Public and others have an incessant internal itch to display superior knowledge of RL credentialed fields like “venture capitalism” but without their SL names or any way to check, we can’t know if they are talking through their ass, can we? So it’s not worth debating.

    Rik, you say the worlds created by Anshe and others aren’t sustainable because LL may fail and the servers may be turned off, but you’re missing the larger point about how communities are built within worlds, and how they become portable. Has anyone every studied cross-game migration of such communities? The game of TSO succeeded in generating the community SimArts, for example, and many other communities than merely migrated over to Second Life then, intact, still doing many of the same things, and then some migrated over to WoW.

    If SL is shut off, they’ll migrate somewhere else. They exist apart from the game where they might be housed, after a certain point. They won’t sustain themselves on Yahoo Messenger alone, but they can be reconstituted pretty quickly if a new setting is enabled for them.

    Re: “The new immigrants may give away more content than they consume, or may not pay as much for content, or may not purchase the same content at all.”

    Actually, the inverse seems to be true, just from my observation, but I think you could confirm it by looking at economic statistics posted in the forums or on the website. The earlest adapters gave away a lot of content and they’re still obsessed with that phony altruism and vaunted notion that they are “helping the community” (I contend they are merely engaging in reputation enhancement which is required for social and economic advancement in SL, and their altruism is only as far as their tolerance for anybody reselling their freebie — then they become hysterical).

    The trend now is to sell more because people are looking for ways to sustain the tier or maintenance fees on the servers they buy. The prices have skyrocketed on things like skins, vehicles, and prefab houses especially, sometimes 10 or 20 times their old prices, even allowing for inflation, because there is more demand and more and more people are coming on and making businesses to meet that demand. Yes, they purchase more householding content (sexy skins, clothing, houses, vehicles) and less sandboxing content (war equipment, gadgets, robot avatars) so the content is different, but even just looking at the price of land, even adjusted for inflation, it has gone up slightly from the median of $5/m the Lindens seemed to be artificially trying to maintain.

    Charles, I agree, and I don’t think anyone is coming to SL and staying within in persistently because of any war game or quest-type game-within-game that anyone has managed to create on its servers. I think it’s widely recognzied that these game-within-games might have some temporarily compelling builds or story lines, but at heart are lame, because they suffer from the limitations of things like vehicles being unable to cross sims; lag; inability of avatars to interact in easy ways like hand-shaking; restrictions on capacity for avatars, scripts, etc. per sim.

    I asked my son and his friends why they tiered down in SL and sold their large holdings of land. They had made amazing content for their age, swords, helmets, avatars, houses, etc. and had turned a profit selling it in RL dollars after tier. They were in the highest traffic lists, etc. But all kinds of factors, ranging from heavy griefing to Linden favouritism of the Teen FIC to the crappy group tools made SL begin to pale for them. Most of all, was the cost required for scope. My son said he realized that after he made his warrior avatars and equipment and their HUDs and the build, even 20,000 even 32,000 m on half a sim, heck even one sim of 65k m2 was not enough space, and he realized he’d need the whole teen grid or more to make his imagined game properly. So that’s why he migrated to WoW where at least the scope and space is there and the content isn’t burned up yet. I quite agree that a game where it’s all laid out to you and you can’t burn through it very fast is going to be “fun” for many people but the demographics will be different.

    I imagine SL contains many mini-generations of people who come for 30 or 90 days and then migrate out again and go dormant, then come back again. I see people like that all the time. They leave with frustration when the asset server eats all their inventory but then drift back in when the other games wear out.

    OK are we done yet? I realize that on a blog like this with a famous game master craftsman and his adoring fans, people get extremely aggressive and defensive, and some even chase me from other venues. I didn’t come here to compete with people’s gaming credentials or their vast and superior knowledge of venture capitalism, but for another reason: to contend their pride of place in the Metaverse. Gamerz and RL credentialed people who coagulate around gaming of all kinds from the IT field and such are not going to get to simply grab the Metaverse and run, you will get a pushback from me, and probably many others. I’m glad you’re all superior in your knowledge, gaming experience, RL credentials, and forums sparring skills. I hope the feeling of smugness, superiority, and “gotcha” obtained from heckling a person like me can warm up the otherwise cold experience of the Internet of strangers for you.

  113. Has anyone every studied cross-game migration of such communities?

    In traditional parlance, such communities would be called “guilds” (for MMORPGs) or “clans” (for FPSs), and they existed outside of the structure of the game.

    Obviously, “to grow and be attractive and cutting edge” means *to be profitable,*

    I’m just going to say “That’s not true,” and leave it at that, because you don’t want to argue it. Profit is profit; it’s not growth, attractiveness, or cutting edge.

    for another reason: to contend their pride of place in the Metaverse

    I’m not convinced I know what the Metaverse is. It seems to me to be the geek response to the idea of globalization. For all I know, they may be right; that’s the platform I usually speak on: things are going global, and they’re going virtual.

    Granted, it must be nice to know who you’re speaking to and why they’re wrong from the outset. I’ve always envied that.

  114. >In traditional parlance, such communities would be called “guilds” (for MMORPGs) or “clans” (for FPSs), and they existed outside of the structure of the game.

    But that’s just it. The social worlds don’t have rigid guilds with rules that go on quests and kill monsters, like the medieval culture they are steeped in. SimArts isn’t really a guild, it’s just neighbours, some of them artists, some not, some more intense, some not, etc. There are lots of communities that are not guilds at all, so I don’t see why we even have to use that term. If a group of stroke victims or live music lovers come in and use SL is that a “guild”? No.

    >I’m just going to say “That’s not true,” and leave it at that, because you don’t want to argue it. Profit is profit; it’s not growth, attractiveness, or cutting edge.

    I’m just going to expect that this is one of those go-nowhere tekkie literalist “I-need-to-be-right” spasms, because I’m not imagining a world that *has no increase in subscriptions at all,* *becomes less attractive than it was the day it was born,* and becomes *yesterday’s newspaper and not cutting edge* and yet keeps on making a profit. Examples? Geez. Why is this stuff always so hard?

    Yes, Michael, *gasp* you can take a position that someone is “wrong to start with” in a debate and *debate them*. But it’s hard to know what this debate is about anymore.

    What is the Metaverse? Yeah, global went virtual. But also…Second Verse, Same as the First. It’s about humans doing stuff together.

    Which humans? Well, Google the word “metaverse”, it’s interesting. It’s really the same 25 people making up the entire thing. Oh, and Second Life bought the prized right-lookers ad spot in the upper right-hand corner.

  115. … you’re missing the larger point about how communities are built within worlds

    You never made that point. There’s no need to, it’s a given. People migrate from Virtual World to Virtual world, and sometimes take their communities with them. Happens all the time. I think you think that your Second Life Community is unique because of the discussion that you’ve had there and the plans you have made. But we’ve discussed Gay Rights in the WoW forums because of that thing that happened (which resulted in the guild recruitment channel). We’ve talked about adding Same-Sex Marriage to A Tale in the Desert (might be in Telling Three, starting soon). We donated virtual coin in City of Heroes to be sold to help the victims of 9/11 (in violation of the terms of service). We’ve talked about what a cry-baby Anakin Skywalker turns out to be in SWG. Most of these topics will be addressed again in Seed. Some of those people will be from these other communities and carry with them that knowledge.

    In SL, you don’t have to get out of character, you can get in or out on any sliding scale you want, the whole out-of/in-character distinction melts away. Now, isn’t that great? Isn’t that freedom?

    … They talk about themselves in the third person that way and type out their emotions instead of just speaking normally

    Going a bit further back, I recognize that. But I was mulling this over earlier today, and see how the second quote simply shows you aren’t getting it. You aren’t having the experience that Richard Bartle hoped you would. When I type “Kir nods” I’m not talking about myself in the third person, I’m talking about my character, my avatar, in the third person. Thus I am able to create a new separate identity and thus I am able to learn from the experience. You can’t get out-of-character in Second Life because there is no setting for your character to have to mesh with, it’s all sandbox with no story. Next two people into the room could be a robot and a walking copy of Barlett’s Familiar Quotations. You can’t make your backstory fit with everything, so instead you go-with-the-flow.

    I asked my son and his friends why they tiered down in SL and sold their large holdings of land.

    I wonder if the answer isn’t a shorter “It stopped being fun and started being work.”

    (I contend they are merely engaging in reputation enhancement which is required for social and economic advancement in SL, and their altruism is only as far as their tolerance for anybody reselling their freebie — then they become hysterical).

    Um, why should they tolerate anyone selling what they are giving away for free? That said, this is a common problem in the game worlds too. Someone will give away stuff or selling at near cost, totally undermining the players who want to be traders and crafters. They do it because helping people is fun.

    The trend now is to sell more because people are looking for ways to sustain the tier or maintenance fees on the servers they buy.

    You crack me up, you really do. I suggest for the Virtual World to survive it needs more people to arrive and they might not be good consumers. You counter with “More people will be selling stuff because they have to pay their rent.” Who are they selling too? Where is the money coming from? Because the model most people use for playing Virtual worlds is a flat monthly fee of around $15 plus they have to have an internet connection. I’ll pay $25 a month for a better game. I’m not paying $250 a month for a better game; it’s simply not in the budget. “Oh, but it’s OK because you can make money in the game. Invite all your friends and they can all make money in the game, quit your day jobs and live like kings.” Didn’t I hear this speech once before? Yes, he was trying to sell me Amway. The way I see it, either there are no consumers for your content providing machine or the whole system floats on the money made in the virtual prostitution business. Either way, the emperor has no clothes.

  116. Prokofy:

    "to grow and be attractive and cutting edge" means "to be profitable"

    These aren’t the same things. I have no desire to teach you, especially you, the fundamentals of business.

  117. Rik, we did all those things in the Sims Online, and heck, people do some of those things in Neopets, and do some of those things in Runescape, and do all of those things in Sociolotron. So? The point is that the SL experience, because it has enhanced capabilities for collaborative work, financially rewarding work that is legal within the world, rationality for hooking up with RL (you can put a lunchtime event with a RL speaker on in a virtual Austin Hall in a virtual Harvard, and be reasonably certain that while a dragon might walk by on the screen, it’s less likely someone will rape someone else on the floor or start clashing swords with them or cry that the lecture must be interrupted because of a sudden bear invasion. There’s no rules in the same way there are in wordly games or gamey worlds, no laws of nature to obey, you are freer to hook up with RL, and that means that you can

    Do people in WoW have the ability to stream audio and video on parcels they own? I’ve never heard of that. But in SL you can stream Harvard into your beachfront cabana or whatever. It’s just the possibilities are that much more robust. You seem to keep whining that Second Lifers are over-enthusiastic about their little pet game. But it seems pretty demonstable to me that when the American Cancer Society wants to organize a wakl against cancer, they came to Second Life, not Runescape or ATITD, even though you can do a heck of a lot of walking in those games.

    I’m wondering if you could put it this way — it’s people that can introduce a topic like gay rights into a non-gay environment that is even hostile at times to gay rights like WoW. But in SL, there is the possiblity to build gay rights institutions, events, knowledge repository, etc. and anyone logging on for the first time can access it. It’s a persistence that isn’t just about the visual representation, isn’t just about the streamgin video on the servers, but about the streaming social capital from people on those servers who have a way to leverage and aggragate and expand on their knowledge and connections. If the handful of people who brought up gay rights leaves WoW, where is the repository left behind? The next people coming along then have to start all over. In Wow, can you buy a parcel and build your own center and stream video in it and have flippable books and events on these subjects? No, of course not. If you do, you’re doing it in spite of the game, not helped by that game.

    It’s interesting that you’re positing that if a person types in the third person about themselves in a game, that means they are more immersed. I’d argue they were *less* immersed.

    As for “You can’t get out-of-character in Second Life because there is no setting for your character to have to mesh with, it’s all sandbox with no story” — baloney. The richness of your character in SL is boundless, and he fits with the world. You go out of character by logging off, not by interrupting your monster quest to talk baseball scores.

    No, it’s not only that it “stops being fun and gets to be work”. I often call it Second Job. It’s that you don’t have the scope and the cost is prohibitive to make it STAY fun. You have to stop at some natural barrier like time or cost — unless you are as driven as someone like Anshe.

    Um, did you realize that by asking this: “why should they tolerate anyone selling what they are giving away for free?” – you’re not espousing a truth acceptible to all, you’re merely espousing a key tenet of the gamer geek curiously restrictive “technolibertarianism”. There are classes and groups of people that do espouse this view. But it isn’t “the truth” because there are many other classes and groups of people that say, heck, it’s fine to sell freebies for what you can get for them, it’s a free market. There are those who live in rigid conformity to game god rules about content that border on the neuralgic when it comes to how content is passed on or sold, and then there are normal people fresher from the outside real world who there isn’t a thing wrong with taking a review copy they got from a publisher and selling it on amazon.com or selling a free CD they got as a promotion, when it comes to a single copy (not a ripped multiple copying). This is one of the central debates, BTW, in Second Life.

    And that’s what I mean that you, and your brethren, and your technogeek philosophy, do not get to rule the Metaverse. There is a huge struggle in SL over the right to have yardsales. A tiny sect of oldbies and jealous content creators and those who flood the world wit freebies, abetted by Lindens, are savagely punishing people who put yard sales on the events list and ruthlessly trashing them in the forums. But these normal people who figure that in a game funded *by the ebay guy cough* you should have the right to sell used goods, even if they are free. You’re providing a service by making them able to be found in the sea of 10 million objects in SL. So it’s a debate, there are arguments to be had on either side of the aisle, but it’s a debate that many of us refuse to allowed to be framed only by those game gods and would-be game gods who are neuralgic about content they supposedly gave away to “help the community”. What better way to “help the commmunity” than by letting poor newbies make a few bucks off a recoloured t-shirt???

    Funny, how people who get all misty-eyed about Creative Commons and give money to enable people to be paid in CC for giving stuff out for free and who are for ripping old dead white guy’s stuff and handing it off everywhere to kids, especially if they are in the third world, well, they become absolutely ballistic at the thought of Ryan Linden’s door and doorscript being sold for $5. Geez.

    Re: making money in the game. Who are they going to sell to? *Each other*. Just like RL. And to new people. Nobody says you’re going to live like kings. I’m the first to say you only make some extra income this way unless you are willing to NOT bill your hours. But make it you can, and find plenty of new customers streaming in constantly.

    It’s really quite facile to say it’s like Amway and floating on the sex business. Huh? People don’t make a pyramid scheme to sell overpriced plastic containers and bulk cartons of spaghetti, they sell avatar clothing and houses that people like and which are part of them creating their onlinle fantasy or presence. You crack me up, too, with your unwillingness to see it’s just normal, the way things work in RL.

    Morgan, I don’t have the desire to teach you the fundamentals of the English language or of virtual business, especially you. Venture capitalists invest in SL. It is growing, it is attracting, and it is cutting edge. Is it profitable? No, of course not, they tell you that frankly. Is it near to being profitable? So they say. So is it an exact technical and scientific equivalent to always and everywhere say that “gorwing and being attractive and being cutting edge is profitable”. No, der, we got that. But is it *reasonable to assume* that venture capitals venture their capital and hope something stays growing and attractive and cutting-edge *so they can make some money*. I mean, this isn’t rocket science. So sure, we can contract the logical propositions here and point out that venture capitalists want something to be growing and attractive because *those are pretty sure signs that it is heading toward being profitable*.

    Do venture capitalists sometimes just take a gamble and put something down on the roulette board just to enhance their overall position and reputation, to bet on a wildely-hued horse just to stand out, heedless of profit? Um, yeah, I guess they do. But I’m thinking it’s a pretty sure bet that they

    Why is this so hard? Why?

  118. Why is this so hard? Why?

    Heh…I constantly ask myself this when I read your posts.

    And that’s what I mean that you, and your brethren, and your technogeek philosophy, do not get to rule the Metaverse.

    ah…now we get to the real motivator behind your arguments. Sic!

    [from prok post to Exceptionalism thread] But if the Atrium of Ravenglass is part of what makes you able to make a RL living AND becomes a place other people can add to their MyWorlds list or Worlds for Windows bookmarks where they can *get things done* we’ll all be in a very different place.

    ah…another indicator of your true ambitions. But that’s cool…you should just do it instead of whining about it all the time.

    I would suggest if you really want to be like your heroine Anshe, that you seriously study some business and investment fundamentals [does not require enlistement in the EvUl Technogeek guild, just sacrifices of chickens and virgins at midnight on the alter of the almighty god DoLLaH - with the occasional bending over and gritting your teeth] stop gasbagging and put your energy and time to work on that exclusively. The amount of energy and time you put into blogging booklength diatribes just astounds me…imagine what you could have done in the meantime. I suspect Anshe knows the answer t that one, which is why she is on the cover of business week and not you. You can’t keep blaming your failure to make Ravenglass the next virtual myspace on the FIC and evil technogeeks who are thwarting you at every turn…maybe the problem lies more on your end. Then you might be able to become the roadrunner and not the bitter and twisted Wiley E Coyote you seem to have become.

    Do venture capitalists sometimes just take a gamble and put something down on the roulette board just to enhance their overall position and reputation, to bet on a wildely-hued horse just to stand out, heedless of profit? Um, yeah, I guess they do. But I’m thinking it’s a pretty sure bet that they

    snort. Sure, I’d love to see that one on the checklist!

    Yours in sublime anonimity,
    Joe Public

  119. The trend now is to sell more because people are looking for ways to sustain the tier or maintenance fees on the servers they buy.

    Who are they going to sell to? *Each other*

    So, I want to pay for my fees, and you want to pay for your fees. So I sell you a re-colored T-shirt for $150 and you sell me sandals for $150, how are we getting closer to paying our fees?

    Do people in WoW have the ability to stream audio and video on parcels they own? I’ve never heard of that.

    No one owns the parcels, neither do we have to pay rent beyond the fee at the door. Audio streaming is generally done with teamspeak or the like. For Video clips we go out of window. no one has yet suggested they’d like it streaming. If there was a market for it, a third party provider would do it. Actually, the changeable interface might support it. In that sence it is possible to add content right into the game, if everyone downloads the plug-in. I’ve only seen two-player tic-tac-toe added this way, but that was more proof-of-concept.

    It’s interesting that you’re positing that if a person types in the third person about themselves in a game, that means they are more immersed. I’d argue they were *less* immersed.

    Not at all what I said. In fact, almost word for word not what I said. I was talking about Identity Exploration. Since you didn’t listen to Bartle, I’d suggest reading James Paul Gee’s “What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” It’s about masks, not pot holders. Sorry, gloves. It’s about thinking of the person on the screen as a real person, not a giant cursor.

    Um, did you realize that by asking this: “why should they tolerate anyone selling what they are giving away for free?” – you’re not espousing a truth acceptible to all, you’re merely espousing a key tenet of the gamer geek curiously restrictive “technolibertarianism”.

    Um, no, I was so unaware. I was talking, as I often do, about the ideas in the sentence itself, not how it might be applied to virtual worlds. If I donated food to a soup kitchen, and later found they sold the food, I’d think I had a right to be unhappy. If I let a friend crash in my garage for a while until he gets on his feet, and later found out he subleased to some whino, I’d be unhappy, even if he and the whino are long gone. I’m not talking about if it’s morally OK to rip songs from CDs and e-mail them to your friends. I’m not even saying you don’t have a right to sell what they give away for free, but you don’t even seem to extend to them the right to be mad about it. I’d ask you to reconsider. Consider instead that they gave it away for free thinking that new arrivals would need free content to get them hooked. A very old idea. And then consider that they are disapointed that it’s not working as they hopped because someone else has tainted their plans by selling what was free.

    Rik, we did all those things in the Sims Online, and heck, people do some of those things in Neopets, and do some of those things in Runescape, and do all of those things in Sociolotron. So?

    So we’ve come full circle. Second Life has some traits not common to other virtual worlds. It’s a place with tools to allow people to create content and it is easy to sell ingame content for real money and it has no theme/genre/story. That’s an interesting mix and I’m sure some very interesting things happen there. On the downside there is not a lot of developer-provided content and no clear dirrection for newcomers to take when they arrive.

    You don’t live in the world that is at the cutting edge of the Metaverse. We *do*. … *We live here, you cannot dismiss us so easily.*

    Umm, again, it’s a place with tools to allow people to create content and it is easy to sell ingame content for real money and it has no theme/genre/story. That’s cool and different, don’t get me wrong. I’m not dismissing you. You like Second Life, I get that. It’s cool. Lots of people like Second Life. I have friends in Second Life. I’m interested in Second Life and how this plays out. But it’s neither the Holy Grail of Virtual Worlds nor the better mouse trap. (Right now, Worlds of Warcraft would seem to be the better mouse trap, but a case could be made for Neopets or MySpace.)

  120. Stop feeding the troll!

  121. more popcorn?

  122. I’ve had enough. Too salty. Too much butter. Thanks, Joe. :)

  123. Heh, just to throw my thoughts into the ring…

    - Anshe isn’t anything new. She is … a DEV. A dev of the Level Designer variety. She’s a player dev, which isn’t all that new, although the degree to which player devs are effective is a tribute to SL’s good design. As a platform. ;)

    She’s a very good dev, as noted by the amount of money she makes. Sure, there’s a little bit of the bad old parasitic speculator in what she does (hey, I play this sort of buy low / sell high parasite in EQ and WoW, I know there isn’t any redeeming quality to it) but I gather she’s a lot more creative than that.

    - Second Life doesn’t eliminate the difference between “entertainer” and “entertained” any better than other community games do. Sure, it allows entertained to become entertainers better than most other online worlds, but just because people jump over the wall doesn’t mean the wall’s not there.

    To prove this, just follow the money. It’s a pyramid, basically. At the bottom, you have people who pump money into the system. These are the entertained. At varying levels above them, you have the people taking money out of the system — the Entertainers (along with assorted speculator parasites.)

    If SL truly eliminated the difference between entertainer and entertained, the money would circulate amongst all players as they each contributed their share of the entertaining and were remunerated by other players for their efforts.

    - The thing that’s interesting, and perhaps even new, about Second Life is the degree to which the player devs have gained a stake in the ongoing management of the game. In many cases their livelihood depends on their ability to make a positive contribution to the gamework, and they want power in return — an interesting dynamic. :)

  124. Rik,

    The structure of the economy now is that the vast majority of residents taking up the 220,000 listed subscribers (some 60,000 are actually logging on regularly I believe) are on basic or free accounts with $50 LL stipends. That means that they either save or win or buy Lindens to buy content. So you get people who are on basics who merely consume, and people on basics or on just 512 m2 of the initial free parcel of land who create without costs — and this level then feeds into those content creators or events organizers or other types of businesses that are on land and have to make the tier. I think like any more primitive economy, and one in transition with lots of immigrants, it’s natural that the main industries are the sex trade, casinos, games, and the rental or sale of housing and land. You can scorn this as a game economy, but it is rapidly becoming more fine-grained — I couldn’t conceive of other service industries like advertising or RL-related education or business training a year ago, and now there are many such services. It’s obviously continuing in a more developed direction.

    Joe Public, you’re the troll, with your snarky remarks and personal attacks, and you’ve been reprimanded once by the host. It’s silly to pretend there’s some “hidden agenda” here on my part when from my very first post, I made it clear that my call to those making the Metaverse Roadmap is to broaden out their ranks from the geeks and conference-lifers to more different kinds of people — that those in the humanities should have as much a stake as those in the sciences.

    I don’t think there’s anything especially like a “high priesthood” in the IT field. It’s rote learning, and conceptual learning, which other people can master, too, and some simply choose other fields, to do other kinds of rote and conceptual learning. So? The better kinds of geeks are the ones with more well-rounded renaissance interests, and I’d point to the wealth of subject matter and interest in other fields visible from Raph Koster on himself this very site as proof of this piont.

    Anyway, the distinction between “high-priest geek” and everyone else is rapidly eroding, if it didn’t even become pointless to harp about 15 years ago, as everyone who participatese in the modern world has to become a little geeky to work their computers and the Internet. The average person’s routine habits just in operating their own work station would have have been part of a trained, specialized job 30 years ago. So please, spare me the drama.

    The other thing that’s silly is to try to portray me as some Anshe manquee, a failed baron, wailing and gnashing my teeth outside the wedding feast of land development on the Lindens’ servers. I have a small business by comparison to Anshe or even the next couple tiers underneath her — where once there were only a few of these barons, now there are dozens. I don’t wish to become much bigger, and I don’t fancy any direct, hydraulic relationship between the amount of blogging I do and the amount of land-dealing I’d be willing to do to be successful. I don’t need to be on the cover of Business Week, though I was once featured in Fortune magazine. I’m doing this job in this world because it is fascinating, and because I feel it’s an extremely important enterprise, this making of the Metaverse, and I want to be part of it and feel I have as much right to shape it as anybody, even without IT credentials. My God, who do you think is going to live in geekworld, only other geeks? How will you reproduce without inbreeding?

    The chief characteristic of people making money in SL is that they do not bill their hours when they start, and even when they establish their businesses. A story like the BW $150,000 story leaves that bit out. That is, you could say that the $1.50 US a week the Lindens pay them ($500 LL) is their salary, I suppose, or the $3.50 US an hour you can make working inworld, half of which has to be turned over for tier. But it’s more like sweat equity. If you wish to rise to the level of Anshe, you’d have to be gaming practically 24/7, and not bill your hours and also take out some loans for investment. Anshe, as a housewife in Germany with a small child at home to take care of and a husband working in IT, could afford to do this. Not everybody could or would want to. I personally wouldn’t want to give up my other interests and jobs in life to push prims.

    Jim has made some interesting points, that yes, Anshe represents something of the species “gold farmer” on games, and there’s more than a bit of the “parasite speculator” at the outset, I imagine, but it’s far more complex than that by now. Anshe got her start by her own admission as a high-priced call girl, then made animations and poses, then began to flip land. If you have the time to study this toy market inside a game-like world, it doesn’t take an awful lot to flip it profitably — the major service that Anshe provides, and the way she could make her money for a long time (and still does) is in liquidations — when players want to leave the game or tier down or change land because they’re being griefed, and they’re willing to sell for $2/meter, enabling her to resell for $4 or more). And just by playing the auction cleverly you can buy what’s lower at the lower-priced times and flip it, sure. I’ve done that, too, but it’s not very interesting for the time you have to put in for the study of the conditions, the margins are slim, and you are constantly exposed with the trading tier constantly needing to be filled up.

    Where it gets interesting, however, is in the game between the social engineers, the Lindens, and this one very determined amateur who was professonalizing within the context of this virtual world. The Lindens constantly break the backs of the land barons by land glutting on the auctions, they keep their land artificially around the $5/m level, so that the margins of when it fluctuates to $4.5 or $5.5 is all that’s there, unless of course you do things like corner the prime new waterfront market, which is the kind of thing Anshe could do handily.

    At a certain point a year ago, the Lindens, began responding to the constant howling of forums regulars who were in a frenzied hate about land barons, and motivated by their own personal distaste for real estate dealers, by introducing changes in the client (It was mainly content creators howling who resented the economic competition from another field, and also utopianists who believed in a Lindenor where everyone would barter and live under a kind of technologically advanced socialism using all the capacities that constant streams of server information can give you, who demanded endless free land to do their experimentation on).

    The Lindens changed features in the software to enable architects and other content creators to sell their content along with the land itself, welding the objects to the land (before that you had to go through a cumbersome process involving risky $0 sales and messing with permissions, etc.) A tiny minority of creators made use of this feature; unfortunately, like a lot of great ideas it was buggy, and the very people who had leveraged their content-creation into collaborative groups couldn’t sell their wares because it wouldn’t sell from group to group.

    No matter, the more savvy land dealers began to see the hand-writing on the wall indicated by this change, and grasped the larger point, which was that land-dealing in and of itself would not be rewarded on this platform. Philip Linden and others added to this by making a number of pointed public speeches about how they wanted to see *value-add* on land, i.e. they didn’t want to see people just engaging in speculation, flipping land and taking advantage of newbie confusion or oldbie desperation, they wanted to see more coherent communities, themes, interesting and compelling architecture and activities, etc. appear on land.

    The value-add concept emerged from a time of severe speculation of rare snow land, which the Lindens responded to belatedly by glutting, and the crisis caused the Linden value first to spike, making land scarce and Lindens very costly (something like $5.00 US per 1000, whereas today with the LindEX reforms crashing the value and other developments, like the recent announcement that the Lindens would sell, i.e. print Lindens, it’s down to $3.00/1000).

    This was a scarring experience for people, and for Lindens, that gave them an allergy to land dealing for a very long time, and strengthened the hand of the content barons in the constant social battle for influence over Lindens, and features in the client advantageous to this or that class — the basis for politics in SL — I suggest that it’s a good yardstick to evaluate how much a game or world is gamey or socially, to determine whether it has the basis for politics or not.

    At this time people began to buy sims but do more than just chop them and flip them. I happened to join at this time and was among the first to buy a sim and develop it specifically with a residential theme and sell houses commissioned by architects along with the parcels (even before the change was made in the client to do that).

    Anshe did this at a much higher level, and also developed the telehub malls, making them hubs of commerce that succeeded not only due to gougingly high rents but because they represented an open, accessible (if expensive) marketplace where anyone could sell their wares — without having to labor up through the guild/apprenticing route in the older economy, getting a corner of a store from a jealous prim diva, gradually getting one’s own store, etc., the arduous route that the SL designer must travel — Anshe’s malls enabled sellers to skip over all that and start selling.

    But with the endless problems of the mainland like griefing and ugly builds, Anshe decided to move her developed residential communities to private islands, which had previously been small in number because they were more expensive and harder to run. Another change in the client that wittingly or unwittingly enhanced the Ansheland empire was the ability to deed access to parcels (islands can’t be chopped and flipped like mainland; this enabled a parcel-like emulation). So Anshe was able to create an empire of over 500 customers on 100 islands each paying at least $25 USD in tier to her a month, and many hundreds more.

    So a combination of changes in the client, conscious social engineering by the Lindens, responses and rebellions by land barons forcing further adaptations from the Lindens, etc. led to this stage where we are. It’s proof that in this virtual world, the division between consumer and producer is increasingly eroded. The prosumer isn’t just a gold farmer, however, he has to adapt far more skillfully and at a much accelerated level. It’s because of these developments that the relationship between “entertainer” and “entertained” is entirely eliminated at a certain point, where you actually begin to see that at some point Anshe, with determination and money and connections to assemble a workforce in China willing to accept sub-standard wages, could outstrip at least in man-hours and numbers the staff of Linden Lab. The Lindens are increasingly talking about “partnerships” and creating various attractive add-ons and applications for businesses willing to produce a dedicated stream of subscribers and serve them so that the Lindens don’t have to wait on them.

    Indeed, if you study the SL economy, which is a bit easier to do now that the web page has economic statistics, you can see that far from being the pyramid you imagine, the money does circulate much more among players buying and selling from each other. There is a huge entertainment class separate from the land-dealing and content-creation class — these are people who organize clubs, events, affinity groups, games-within-games, etc. and this class as a whole probably makes as much if not more money than land developers — the development incentive awards list included many of them, not only due to the “camp chairs” phenomenon but due to their own higher-level economic activity of creating events/venues/contests, etc. to entertain others (it will be interesting to see whether this class continues to thrive now that the incentives and the dwell/traffic payment subsidies are being removed by the Lindens).

    So it’s not only the politics and demand for power-sharing that’s interesting, but the increasing professionalization and more fine-grained economic activity that has accompanied that demand for power-share. When the Lindens decided to cave to lobbying from their content-creation class, who hated the telehub malls ostensibly due to lag and blight (the real issue is that these “urban centers” cut into the boutiqe businesses of oldbies out in the hinterlands), and simply removed the telehubs from the client and replaced them from point-to-point teleportation, the predictable result was that suddenly, land barons with telehub land were left with parcels valued at $3/meter instead of $50/meter, and suddenly languishing content makers got 10 or even 50 fold increases in sales — right at this time the Lindens also killed GOM and put their LindeX in and destroyed the residential currency market, which also had the effect of lowering the cost of Lindens to make land barons poorer by creating a lowering cost of land (helped by their glutting), and make content creators richer by giving their customers an easy way to buy lots of Lindens — they could just easily raise prices on their networked vendors at the flick of a switch, whereas land barons had to manually increase land parcels on every single parcel.

    An unprecedented development in SL, little noticed really outside this virtual world, is the formation of a lobbying group of telehub land owners who consciously campaigned with the Lindens, demanding in RL terms that they be compensated for the loss of the telehubs. After all, when they purchased them in good faith, the opening bidding price was set higher to reflect their value, and the Lindens went on selling them to unwitting buyers, long after they had already internally made the decision to remove them and move to p2p.

    RL lawyers among the owners became involved in sending letters to LL attorneys warning them that this was a classic bait-and-switch issue. The Lindens gracefully responded by agreeing to buy back the now-devalued telehub land at a reasonable rate — which they did, printing Lindens to do so, and crashing the value of the Linden $ further, and also changing the landscape for economic activity once again.

    So yes, this combination of normal game-world dynamics, changes in the software consciously introduced by the Lindens, sometimes due to their own geeky utopian ideological bent, and then determined counter-responses by a very invested prosumer class, and continued new responses by the game devsm makes SL something different than a game, and more likely the virtual world with more innovations that will shape the Metaverse to come.

  125. Joe Public, you’re the troll, with your snarky remarks and personal attacks,

    Now that IS the pot calling the kettle black!

    and you’ve been reprimanded once by the host.

    Mea culpa, but as explained in a subsequent post it was made, indirectly, in response to one of your posts

    that those in the humanities should have as much a stake as those in the sciences.

    They already do. Many, many, many of these already exist in SL and are doing some very interesting stuff.

    I don’t understand the point of your ancient history lesson on the SL land trade. Mildly interesting, possibly from the stance of an academic research project into the evolution of a virtual world economy, but essentially the rules of the game changed and some eggs got broken…so what? Suck it up.
    Life is pain, get over it! [heh, go the UT2k4!]

    Everyone, and I mean everyone, in SL is an early adopter of a rapidly evolving technology platform and business model which incurs certain OBVIOUS risks [as well as the heady high of being able to promote yourself as a virtual business exec in the most cutting edge metaverse yet known to man.]

    If you choose to gamble your business model on LL’s penchant for radical change of mind…more power to you! When LL decides to move out of the developmental lovefest that appears to be their model for innovative collaborative project managment [sic] things may get a little more predictable in this regard, but you would be a brave man, or woman or furry or ??, to hold your breath in this regard imo.

    You drank the koolaid, whether you like to think you did or not, the moment you signed up. You appear to have drunk a few dozen gallons of it yourself.

    You don’t live in the world that is at the cutting edge of the Metaverse. We *do*. … *We live here, you cannot dismiss us so easily.*

    *furrows brow while trying to figure that one out*

    SL is useful for prototyping interesting widgets and projects, very interesting 3D SNS, some cool new entertainment applications, and some even more interesting evolving RL/virtual business uses appearing on the horizon that are sooo much more interesting than the virtual slumlord model that you appear fixated upon…but good luck to them [and you] if this is how you choose to run your virtual life.

    Personally I think SL is a great virtual toyland with all sorts of interesting possibilities in rl, virtual, and mixed realities…but imo it’s best to ride it like a surfer and not like pioneer trying to race for the goldfields in the wild wild west, hoping to make that big strike that will finally set you up for life. You could end up like most pioneers, lying facedown in the dirt with a backfull of arrows.

  126. Yes, Michael, *gasp* you can take a position that someone is “wrong to start with” in a debate and *debate them*.

    No, the position you begin with is that the other person has something worthwhile to say, and from there you deduce whether they are correct or not based on their arguments and responses to your arguments. You gain nothing if you attempt to evangelize the rightness of your beliefs onto those who have strayed from the path of good. Well, you gain an imperium, but I was pretty sure you were against that.

    I made it clear that my call to those making the Metaverse Roadmap is to broaden out their ranks from the geeks and conference-lifers to more different kinds of people — that those in the humanities should have as much a stake as those in the sciences.

    If that’s all it is, no one is disagreeing with you. No one has said, “Geeks should rule the Metaverse and touchy-feelies should butt out.” But you further contend, however, that Second Life is the only medium worth looking at for the future of the Metaverse, and it’s that kind of elitism that’s getting you the cold shoulder.

    Try listening first. I believe the exact wording is “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.”

    And before I get touched for an ad hominem, I’m not responding to the arguments anymore; I’m out.

  127. Joe Public, one of the deep illusions of the tekkies in SL, and the Lindens, and people like Hamlet nee Linden Au in particular, is that there are “all these people in the humanities” in Second Life at the top of the pyramid. Well, no. Actually, *no*. That is, there are a couple. But by and large, what you mean are designers or arstists — people who may be graphic arts designers but who primarily work on computer graphics and on the Internet and have absorbed the whole IT culture — they aren’t people in the humanities in the sense of poets, writers, sociologists, etc. The lawyers, the writers, don’t rule. This is C.P. Snow gone wild in reverse — it’s not that the literary elite is keeping out the scientists — it’s that the scientists are saying that unless the literary can do blogs and tag delicious and load Flikr and do Digg and podcast, they can’t play. Acquire sophisticated technical skills increasingly complex with each new generation of technology, or shut up.

    Michael, you can find what someone says worthwhile, but you can also believe they’re wrong. Obviously Raph Koster and most of the people here believe I’m wrong and are setting me straight. That’s fine. That’s what normal debate is about, two opposing viewpoints. There’s no need to have what in fact is actually a silly touch-feely etnic that we’re all supposed to be mind-melding here in the great Metaverse and grokking on the fact that we’re all sentient beings blah blah.

    In fact, it’s not “touchy feely” stuff that I mean to bring in by bringing in more of the humanities — I find the scientific technogeek types are actually far more vulnerable to picking up all kinds of really illogical and emotional belief systems — you get technogeeks who sneer at the oppression of people under Christianity and the purveying of myths and then pick up up BDSM, pagan, and Wiccan as their belief systems LOL.

    BTW, there’s no place in my posts here where I’ve called for any exclusivity for SL itself, nor have I said the future of the Metaverse lies only with SL. No place. That’s the sort of hysterical, exaggerated perception that comes from somebody merely coming along from outside your ranks and saying, hey, you don’t get to be the only ones in charge. You’ve now transmogrified that into some alleged hysterical call to make only Second Life the advance guard of the future.

    That’s patently ridiculous. As I’ve written here and in other threads, I don’t see why this is an all or nothing proposition. Most of the people here are basically saying, “Games are from Mars, Social Worlds are from Venus” and basically dissing the girls’ games where there is a lot of house-holding and relationship-building and marketing of personal possessions, and saying that only the other kind of shooter/war/quest/game-games are going to have the cutting-edge technology. Like the “Mars/Venus” debate about men and women, it’s a pointless spiral since both sides have a little bit of the other side in them.

    So, beg to differ — I simply disagree that the gaming worlds will have the most progressive technology AND I don’t think that those who create and rule these games then should have the last word on how the Metaverse is developed. I have yet to see a rational and persuasive list of the features now being developed in the Mars games that put them head and shoulders over the Venus worlds.

    And there’d be no point in privileging SL in the list of social worlds necessarily, if people really found that Active Worlds, Project Entropia, A Tale in the Desert, Sociolotron, etc. really had substantive followings. They don’t appear to — though this could change. And there could be a new competitor emerge, and the new adult games or even something like IMVU could acquire substantial followings to dwarf all these others, like a MySpace.

    It seems crazy to me to have this discussion degenerate to some sort of Pepsi and Coke branding war. People in SL can readily concede that World of Warcraft has better graphics, performance, compelling content, action, etc. and therefore justifying its millions of subscribers. Many of them play WoW in fact. But in reverse, the WoW admirers can’t seem to concede what is superior about SL, and keep dissing the activities exemplified by Anshe Chung as somehow already “been there, done that” or uninteresting.

  128. Prokofy-

    - Thanks for the rundown on how land speculation and profitmaking works in SL. Would you care to do some research into how much money “entertainers” make there? The ones that organize events, games, and such. I’m extremely curious as to whether they make money and how much they make, but don’t have the time to look into it myself.

    Could you link their webpage about economic statistics?

    - I’m not sure politics is a good way to measure the game vs. world distinction. In very game-y MMOs, you get into huge political fights between classes — Solo-capable vs. forced-grouping classes, Nerf victims fighting for their rights, Rangers (or Druids) vs. everyone else, all that good stuff.

    - Hold on, “*one* very determined amateur” professionalizing? So Anshe wasn’t evidence of a larger trend in moneymaking in SL? My friend, I’m afraid you have to concede Raph’s point about her being an outlier, in that case. Kind of disappointing, actually; I was hoping that SL actually had an entire breed of such entrepreneurs, that would really have been something.

    - At one point you’d claimed that SL gave you the opportunity to do financially rewarding work, and this was an innovation. From this information I deduced the pyramid structure.

    If you can do financially rewarding work (you’re taking money out of the system), this means there are a larger number of people putting money in. I’m assuming there are few, if any, SL players who simply pour tens of thousands of real dollars into this system. Which could well be wrong. /shrug.

  129. Jim,

    Here’s the link to the economic stats, such as they are:
    https://secondlife.com/currency/economy.php

    As for how much the club owners and event organizers make, unfortunately we no longer have transparency on their daily income levels as we used to have right in the user interface where you could instantly find out the “leader boards” in all kinds of categories (how much land owned, how much money in the account currently, etc.) — you could even find where you yourself were on the list — it would show just your portion of it and those you contrasted with.

    But there was eventually a huge pressure on the Lindens to remove this for “privacy” reasons. The hugely wealthy didn’t like their wealth to be displayed and become a subject of envy. Of course some had already figured out how to hide their stats by making alts or groups.

    So I don’t have ready figures for you to link to, but I would say that the top club owners are included in those top ranking people making RL income, and I know of some who make in the thousands of dollars US. They’re able to maintain one or a dozen islands and take home a profit after costs. A club is able to make income mainly from being a venue where content, music, and sex are sold and also home and land rentals. They clubs increasingly are small island economies that portion off some housing for workers that is sometimes free, sometimes for a low rent, some villas for more wealthy people, stores for content, and then under the old dwell incentive system, various things to make people stick on the property like dance pads. Then there would be call girls, the sale of porn streams, etc. The point here is that these clubs provide a socialization network for newbies and help people find their niche of RP or style or theme and also provide game help.

    The sex trade is a turnoff for quite a few — then they can take another route completely and go to all the PG sims with very different kinds of clubs and groups with libraries, book clubs, poetry reading, gallery walks, etc. People make and sell original art, ebooks, “happenings” of various kinds, sometimes “mixed reality” with RL events. There’s a record company with an inworld record label of those musicians who got their start playing live in coffee houses and clubs within SL, and also those who are RL musicians now using SL to have concerts.

    In other words, bring people together on a grid and give them tools and incentives and creative possibilities and they do the normal things people do anywhere in any town or village or city.

    I don’t understand why there is this constant, constant harping about “Anshe as outlier.” I’ve said nothing of the kind nor is any of my argumentation leading to such a supposition. Just because i’ve described one very determined amateur who professionalized to the point of making that kind of income doesn’t mean I’ve somehow endorsed the outlier theory, this doesn’t follow logically at all. In fact, any of us doing business in SL are determined amateurs professionalizing at least within the context of becoming knowledgeable about virtual world markets and customers. There are hundreds of people who aren’t necessarily professional artists or designers but who mastered the PSP and other tools they needed to become successful in this world. I’m puzzled why this is so hard to accept. All you have to do is go to http://www.secondlife.com and browse through the classifieds ads right on the website:
    http://secondlife.com/community/classifieds.php

    People pay $50 US or even $100 USD to buy the top slots on this list — or pay merely pennies to be at least in it near the bottom. You can see from this kind of expenditure that people can justify such a cost because they make the sales to cover it. I just know personally from my tenants in various stores and malls that it’s common to make $10,000 or $25,000 per day, which is about $40 or $90 a day — for a content creator. Of course, there are the hours they labour to make the items, but then after they put it in a vendor to sell, there is no more cost unless they pay rent or tier — and they remove much of that cost posting on third-party shopping sites that take a small commission.

    I’m not seeing it as a pyramid. First of all, there isn’t “taking money out of the system” — if I cash out $250,000 Lindens to pay tier, it means some other resident bought my $250,000 to buy content. It’s a normal currency exchange, not gold farming by exploiting loopholes in the system — it’s legal to exchange the game currency for USD. It’s not “capital flight”. I might also put it back into the world in the form of paying suppliers, buying prefabs, commissioning architects to build, etc.

    I don’t see it as much different than going to Russia to start a business — costs, yes, hardships, annoying bureaucrats, yes, mafias and crime, yes — but rewarding nonetheless to be in an emerging and developing economy.

    Yes, there are people who sink loads of money into this platform without making a profit. There are indeed people who do spend anywhere from $40 to $125 a month for a quarter or half sim or more ($195 for a full sim or island) in order to simply have a place to hang out, build, socialize, perhaps organize live music shows or various games, whatever. They have disposable income, and for them, paying the tier on the land, and buying content from others seems reasonable — they get something like a streaming movie they get to script and write the ending to, they don’t mind paying $40 a month for it.

    Indeed, SL has an entire breed of entrpreneurs. It has reached the point where there is a stock market, banks, investment groups, etc. It’s all primitive still, but it is developing. The stock market just paid its second round of dividends (you can see that a http://www.slsolutions.com)

    I guess I’m not so concerned about trying to convince you. It’s not Amway, after wall, it’s not a fake thing like that where you have to pyramid scheme and proseltyze. If it doesn’t sing for you, you won’t get involved in it. Pretty soon I imagine it will get a lot bigger and then seem normal.

  130. People in SL can readily concede that World of Warcraft has better graphics, performance, compelling content, action, etc. and therefore justifying its millions of subscribers.

    Hmm, they would be wrong to think that World of Warcraft has better graphics. It has horrible graphics and they constantly repeat. The level 60 monsters look like level 2 monster except green and with better weapons. What it does have is a consistant style, one that is supposed to have six-sided wheels and square rope.

    Many of them play WoW in fact. But in reverse, the WoW admirers can’t seem to concede what is superior about SL, and keep dissing the activities exemplified by Anshe Chung as somehow already “been there, done that” or uninteresting.

    WoW is not superior to Second Life, it’s different. It’s not about the money, I’m not looking into Virtual World Design as a way to get rich. Trafic is impressive, on the other hand, because it suggests people like the world discussed. The current lesson of SL seems to be Sex Sells. I didn’t need a house to fall on me to learn that. The lawyers ripped all the content-creation tools out of TSO long before Alpha testing exactly because they were afraid it would look like Second Life, sex and other people’s Intelectual Property. Don’t believe it? Look at the ads right on the website, then see the note “You must login to see Mature Ads.”. That’s right, this is the tame stuff. Not that the lack of content tools stopped all the sex from TSO. Interestingly, the failure of TSO to be what Will Wright invisioned leads into Spore, the Massively Single Player game. Unwanted content will be a thing of the past.

    Nice talking with you, Prokofy.

  131. I love this quote: it rips into Raph’s perspective and rips out the heart of it:

    “Surely you don’t think that only those making FPS toys-for-boys worlds are the only world-makers? Surely the girl stuff can count too like houses and relationships and villages and continents?Surely you don’t think that only those making FPS toys-for-boys worlds are the only world-makers? Surely the girl stuff can count too like houses and relationships and villages and continents?”

  132. It’s actually kind of a ludicrous quote, for anyone who has followed my work and writing knows that I obviously don’t think that.

    The discussion wandered rather far afield, so I ended up avoiding the thread. I’ll just state that the entire issue of “who governs” is a very very tangled and complex one, and that I still think it will be worlds designed for entertainment — read, “game worlds” — that end up driving lasting progress. That does not in any way diminish the innovations and importance of the social worlds, since I also believe the game worlds will be copying the social worlds a lot along the way.

  133. [...] Raph’s Website » Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit [...]

  134. Raph, I’m glad you don’t think that (and that’s why I asked the question rhetorically as “surely you don’t think…) — but this wasn’t a debate only with you or only about your thinking.

    I don’t feel the conversation wandered *that* far afield (I suppose it’s something about girls not having a good sense of direction, eh?), though I appreciate that both you and Cory introduced new threads to try to get the upperhand in articulating “what it is about”.

    What’s so tangled and complex about “who governs” (or as I put it often, “who develops?”) The game devs develop, and the game devs govern. Their junior partners, in the form of mods or wizards or junior devs or whatever are merely replications.

    It’s hard to conceive of how complex governance will really get in a four-walls game world if the players cannot at some point leverage their power as consumers/prosumers/payers for the server into forcing a sharing of power, and a separation of powers, so that not only an overweening executive always prevails.

    It seems to me that only social worlds will have that flexibility for gaining governance

    Now how does this relate to the OP and the original cast of the thread? Easy. The history of the Metaverse, like a lot of histories, like a lot of stories, is being written by the victors now — the game devs. You’re a very enlightened despot in that you’re willing to explain patiently how you’re all for people doing their own content, you’ve posted the link to your enlightened theory in the other thread, but…you’re still in charge. I’m going to guess that you don’t acquire the kind of RL resume you have by lamely gold-farming in games or letting the Man stick it to you at a dead-end cubicle job.

    The struggle isn’t over, however, and the story is still to be written. In the games/worlds/platforms that can cash out, and that have a model whereby new people=new servers=new content=new land=new revenues, not one that the game worlds have (there the decisions to add servers/content are in part dictated by population but in part dictated by their own staffing, ideas, etc.). The formula for people=server=new content is an automatic regenerative one that appears to be able to go on for awhile before it runs up against serious problems with the centralized asset server issues, I guess. So…those new people leasing the servers and making the content in serious ways soon not only outnumber the game staff, even in developmental capacity terms, they also pay for the bottom line in increasing ways. So they become a force to content with that the company is always trying to harness, using every conceivable kind of method of cooptation.

    This drama is epic, and is central to how the Metaverse will play out. Never in history have the developers been overtaken by the developed to such an extent, and so rapidly. The Medicis, the Soviets, whatever, they all coopted the creative intelligentsia and technocrats and had them serve the regime by exchanging content for privileges, and using defunding or terror to keep the class in line. So now we’ll get to see how this is done with virtual world tools like banning or muting or expelling, I suppose, and see who wins the politics of fighting for feature sets.

  135. I ended up writing a whole post to reply to you. :) Expect it shortly.

  136. [...] Prokofy Neva said, in the Metaverse roadmap discussion thread, What’s so tangled and complex about “who governs” (or as I put it often, “who develops?”) The game devs develop, and the game devs govern. Their junior partners, in the form of mods or wizards or junior devs or whatever are merely replications. [...]

  137. [...] May 26, 2006Blogged Out: Snow Crash MountainWelcome to ‘Blogged Out’, the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at the metaverse. Clockwork Pistols At Virtual Dawn Science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s fictional concept of the ‘metaverse’ has been adopted as updated concept for the new articulations of cyberspace – for the 3D realm which encompasses everything the web is now, and where everyone could potentially be represented by their personalised avatars in a virtual information space. The Metaverse Roadmap conference was intended to take a look at what this 3D web might entail, asking questions about the relationship between game worlds, business, 3D web apps and the general flow of online information, while at the same time collecting the usual suspect of luminaries up to enable them to articulate their thoughts on what this metaverse thing might actually be. Stephenson’s fictional construct has been used to articulate numerous ideas about where the web is going (including an interesting question from Ed Castronova about why there isn’t an academic virtual world in which regulated, non-commercial research can be conducted), but it has also become a unique field of battle. The trickiest salvos in this conflict were delivered just after the conference in the comments accompanying the Metaverse Roadmap blog thread of theoretician of fun, Raph Koster. The leading massively multiplayer games thinker came under fire from Second Life’s most outspoken critic and advocate, Prokofy Neva, in a voluminous and hotly argued exchange that has spread across multiple threads and forums across the blogosphere. Prokofy attacked numerous aspects of what Koster said, but also much of what the Second Lifer perceived he stood for. The Metaverse Roadmap came under fire for not being diverse enough, and featuring a familiar set of ‘panel-dwellers’, such as Koster: “You don’t get diversity just from ‘multiple generations of technology’ – for something as big and far-reaching and impactful as ‘the Metaverse’ it seems to me that you need to have people from all walks of life, including non-technological – not just users, but thinkers and doers from a wide variety of fields. I don’t see the different viewpoints appearing in the blogs – not yet, anyway. It’s a lot of enthusiastic cheerleadering. The ‘non-profit’ types were like Randy Moss of American Cancer Society which is already in SL and promoting it – but not people who had never heard of SL. That would be the real test – take people who are smart and involved and doing great things but never heard of any of this and see – does it work for them?” Prokofy was making some valid points amid the contention, arguing that the real innovators on this new frontier might not the developers and gamers, but the people who were using the likes of Second Life for business or education: “I find there’s a horrible, horrible, hangover from this MMORPG culture you’ve all imbined for decades that is hugely destructive and is near to strangling the infant of the Metaverse in its cradle. You conceive of worlds as if they all involve skilling, leveling up, killing orcs, and getting advice from NPS and Wizards. YOUR goal is to be the ultimate Wizard (like a resident becoming a Linden). But there’s no objective need to force these memes and cultural institutions of MMORPGs, with their rigid, stratified, tekkie-serving forms of governance on virtual worlds just because they’re virtual, and you can fly in them. None whatsoever. Indeed, to the extent that we can shatter this horrid MMORPG culture with its fanboyz and resmods and alt-outings and rare-hoarding, we’re be that much farther ahead.” Blogger Mark Wallace sums this idea up rather differently on 3pointD: “The fact is, gameworlds have already done their part for the metaverse. Second Life would probably not exist were it not for its predecessors in text and graphical virtual worlds. But what SL is trying to do (albeit somewhat clumsily) is create a kind of grand mashup between a social world and a technology platform like the Web. In fact, it’s explicitly mashing a 3D space into the Web with the coming integration of Web services into SL. Combine this with graphics capabilities, the Western world’s Web-connectedness and a younger generation that’s primed to use 3D online spaces, and you get something fundamentally different from a place like LambdaMOO, which Raph calls ‘EXACTLY LIKE SECOND LIFE’ (his caps).” What it all comes down to, of course, is whether people actually want to do all of this in 3D, or whether, as Randy Farmer points out, “3-D isn’t an inherently better representation for every purpose. 3-D is an attribute, like the color blue.” Are any of the things that Second Life claims to want to do actually better done in 3D? Or is what is really better done in 3D simply the act of play? Sure, some people are making a buck now, and creating some interesting tools… but do the 60,000 people in Second Life make as much of a difference to the world as the millions logging on with the sole intention of playing games and having fun? [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]POSTED: 10.39am PST, 05/26/06 – Jim Rossignol – LINK[05.25.06]  [Next Column]  [View All...]  [View Other Blogged Out Columns] [...]

  138. [...] Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit — see, more Prokofy means more readers! [...]

  139. [...] Someone held a summit on the Metaverse and didn’t invite me Oh well, but at least there are plenty of thoughts around from blogs of the attendees.Lets start by pointing out the website of the organizers of the conference:http://www.metaverseroadmap.org/Basically, the point of the conference was to layout a possible roadmap that will get us to a "Metaverse" by 2016. On the roadmap overview page, they list imminent technological and societal changes to get us there. In the true spirit of the internet, information about the goings on at the summit can be found in podcastsand blogsand some scattered media outlets. The latter reporting that the conference was not without controversy:The trickiest salvos in this conflict were delivered just after the conference in the comments accompanying the Metaverse Roadmap blog thread of theoretician of fun, Raph Koster. The leading massively multiplayer games thinker came under fire from Second Life’s most outspoken critic and advocate, Prokofy Neva, in a voluminous and hotly argued exchange that has spread across multiple threads and forums across the blogosphere.Prokofy attacked numerous aspects of what Koster said, but also much of what the Second Lifer perceived he stood for. The Metaverse Roadmap came under fire for not being diverse enough, and featuring a familiar set of ‘panel-dwellers’, such as Koster:"You don’t get diversity just from ‘multiple generations of technology’ – for something as big and far-reaching and impactful as ‘the Metaverse’ it seems to me that you need to have people from all walks of life, including non-technological – not just users, but thinkers and doers from a wide variety of fields. I don’t see the different viewpoints appearing in the blogs – not yet, anyway. It’s a lot of enthusiastic cheerleadering. The ‘non-profit’ types were like Randy Moss of American Cancer Society which is already in SL and promoting it – but not people who had never heard of SL. That would be the real test – take people who are smart and involved and doing great things but never heard of any of this and see – does it work for them?"Prokofy was making some valid points amid the contention, arguing that the real innovators on this new frontier might not the developers and gamers, but the people who were using the likes of Second Life for business or education:"I find there’s a horrible, horrible, hangover from this MMORPG culture you’ve all imbined for decades that is hugely destructive and is near to strangling the infant of the Metaverse in its cradle. You conceive of worlds as if they all involve skilling, leveling up, killing orcs, and getting advice from NPS and Wizards. YOUR goal is to be the ultimate Wizard (like a resident becoming a Linden). But there’s no objective need to force these memes and cultural institutions of MMORPGs, with their rigid, stratified, tekkie-serving forms of governance on virtual worlds just because they’re virtual, and you can fly in them. None whatsoever. Indeed, to the extent that we can shatter this horrid MMORPG culture with its fanboyz and resmods and alt-outings and rare-hoarding, we’re be that much farther ahead."More info on the exchange can be found here http://www.3pointd.com/20060516/metaverse-grudge-match/I'm still reading all this info, so I may come up with some thoughts about it all soon. Posted by Ariane Barnes at 08:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) Trackbacks Trackback specific URI for this entry No Trackbacks Comments Display comments as (Linear | Threaded) No comments Add Comment [...]

  140. [...] You should also check out conversation about the 3D web at Metaverse (http://www.metaverseroadmap.org/index.html) and then read this:http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/05/08/thoughts-on-the-metaverse-summit/ it’s fascinating to read how people are thinking about blurring the Web and real life. [...]

  141. [...] I realize that I have sung the praises of adding that extra dimension over the past pages. I do not want to convey the message that 3D is some magic pixie dust. I think that Raph Koster nails the tradeoff well: “3d is pretty, significantly more immersive, and it’s more than twice as hard to adopt. “ (http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/05/08/thoughts-on-the-metaverse-summit/) I would agree that navigating in 2D on a 2D screen is currently easier. Both SL and many MMORPGs are well known for having UIs with hard learning curve. Maybe the attention arrow will swing back towards hardware interfaces at some point. Mouse and keyboard does not feel like an optimal way to navigate 3D space. I do agree with Beth Noveck that “information objects convey meaning on many levels and with more layers of complexity than text.” (A Democracy of Groups http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_11/noveck/) With a more inclusive concept of literacy we will be able to communication with greater bandwidth. I think the work at the Space Flight Museum more than hints at a possible evolution towards more social, interactive and visual communication. I think that this will be very beneficial towards making sense of abstract information and letting us tackle larger problems together. It is important to bear in mind that the SL ecosystem is very much 2D and 3D. The 3D environment might be at the heart of it, but nearly every resident I talked to visited websites as a part of their SL experience. In Play Between Worlds T. L. Taylor comments on how it hard to imagine a game like EQ without the web resources. (Play Between worlds, M. Jakobsson in Chapter 3, p. 84) I feel the same way about SL. Resident creativity has spilled onto the 2D web in a big way. There are many examples and I’ll list but a few here: Think of how the Space Flight augmented their collaborative building with a wiki. SL Boutique (http://www.slboutique.com/) that recently surpasses 100000 listed items (http://www.3pointd.com/20060803/100000-items-listed-on-slboutique/) offers shopping via a 2D web interface. Payments are integrated with SL accounts. Using the SL history wiki the residents collaboratively write their own history (http://history.secondserver.net) Snapzilla has become the Flickr of SL (http://www.sluniverse.com/pics/) The New World Notes blog is many residents’ primary source of SL news (http://nwn.blogs.com/) [...]

  142. [...] Suddenly, all that time Raph has been labouring talking to gamers and Infamous Antagonists on his blog seems to make sense — if a new and different thing and better thing will come out of it. An interesting discussion on whether games or worlds are better is going on here. [...]

  143. [...] of a 3D-web or ‘metaverse’? (I’m thinking about Prokofy Neva’s comments in this comments thread): HJ: I have long felt that the term, game, is both enabling and crippling. We have a tendency [...]

  144. [...] is a great discussion happening on Raph Koster’s blog about the Metaverse and Metaverse Roadmap Summit between [...]

  145. [...] Raph’s Website » Thoughts on the Metaverse Summit Share and Enjoy: [...]

  146. [...] HTML and, thus, was the sole province of techies. Now she's pissed off everyone from the Lindens to Raph Koster. She can't help herself. I think it's some form of intellectual tourettes, [...]

  147. [...] and the Jira among other things. She's the ultimate anti-everything, and even dares to believe she knows better than professional game designers like Raph Koster. Maybe the most epic encounter of all (replete with truckloads of popcorn) occurred over on [...]

  148. [...] spirit of the internet, information about the goings on at the summit can be found in podcasts and blogs and some scattered media outlets. The latter reporting that the conference was not without [...]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.